Five people, including two women in the United States, were charged Wednesday with funneling money to the Al-Qaeda-linked armed group Al-Shabab in Somalia, prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a shooting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu that killed a parliamentarian, who was popular for her social justice advocacy and her former career as a folk singer.
Saado Ali Warsame was shot dead in the capital’s Hodan district on Wednesday by gunmen who pulled up near her car in another vehicle, said Mohammed Hussein, a police captain. Warsame’s driver was also killed, in the latest of a number of attacks that some say mark Al-Shabab’s resurgence in East Africa.
Another Somali parliamentarian, Mohammed Mohamud Heyd, was killed in a similar attack earlier this month.
In the U.S., the two alleged Al-Shabab-backers – Muna Osman Jama, 34, of Reston, Virginia, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 44, of Kent, Washington – were arrested Wednesday and have been charged with 20 counts each of “providing material support to a foreign terrorist group,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The U.S. designated Al-Shabab as a "terrorist" group in 2008. In 2012, leaders of Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda announced they were merging.
Jama faced an initial appearance Wednesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Three others overseas have also been charged. One, Farhia Hassan, was arrested Wednesday at her home in the Netherlands. Two more, Fardowsa Jama Mohamed and Barira Hassan Abdullahi, are fugitives in Kenya and Somalia, respectively.
An indictment alleges that, beginning in February 2011, the women sent monthly payments to Al-Shabab fighters. The payments were often $100 or so, and the largest single payment was $1,500.
According to the government, the defendants would refer to money they sent overseas as "living expenses." They reportedly used code words such as "orphans" to refer to Al-Shabab fighters, and "camels" to refer to trucks.
Prosecutors say Jama and Dhirane directed a fundraising network composed primarily of women, with Jama sending money to Kenya through her conduit and Dhirane doing the same to a contact in Somalia.
Court records do not list attorneys for the women.
Al-Shabab has had some success recruiting U.S. citizens, usually of Somali descent, to join its ranks.
In the Eastern District of Virginia, U.S. citizen and Muslim convert Zachary Chesser was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in prison for twice trying to travel to Somalia and trying to join Al-Shabab. The second time, he took his infant son to the airport with him as cover, thinking that a person traveling with a baby would look less suspicious.
Chesser had gained notoriety on the Internet under the name Abu Talhah Al-Amriki for threatening the creators of the "South Park" cartoon show, following an episode that he deemed disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed.
Al-Shabab fighters fled fixed positions in Mogadishu three years ago and have since lost most large towns to a 22,000-strong United Nations-backed African Union force, fighting alongside government soldiers.
But they still hold sway in areas of the rural hinterland, from which they regularly launch attacks.
Al Jazeera and wire services