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Originally published Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7:40 PM

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Kent woman charged with funding al-Qaida-linked group

A Kent woman has been indicted in connection with what federal investigators call a “fundraising conspiracy” to benefit an al-Qaida-linked extremist group in Somalia.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A Kent woman has been indicted in Virginia on charges alleging she helped run a “fundraising conspiracy” that funneled money to the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Hinda Osman Dhirane, 44, appeared Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue ordered her held pending a hearing July 29 to determine whether she’s the same person named in the indictment.

If the court makes that finding, Dhirane will be sent to Alexandria, Va., where she and four other women each face 23 terrorism-related felony counts: one of conspiracy and 22 of providing material support to a terrorist organization.

If convicted, each of the women faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg.

Dhirane wore a patterned hijab in court and spoke through an interpreter.

Dhirane was arrested at her Kent apartment Wednesday, and the Department of Justice announced that two other women, Muna Osman Jama, 34, of Reston, Va., and Farhia Hassan of the Netherlands, were arrested simultaneously at their homes. Two others are listed as fugitives in Kenya and Somalia.

Al-Shabaab has been conducting a violent insurgency in Somalia for years and has recruited a number of disaffected Somali youth from the U.S. to fight.

The U.S. designated al-Shabaab a terrorist organization in 2008. In 2012, the leaders of al-Shabaab announced they had merged with al-Qaida, the Osama bin Laden-founded terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

According to the Department of Justice, Dhirane and Jama were leaders of an al-Shabaab fundraising conspiracy operating in the U.S., Kenya, the Netherlands, Somalia and elsewhere.

Jama was allegedly responsible for sending money to Kenya through overseas defendant Fardowsa Jama Mohamed, while Dhirane was primarily responsible for sending money to Somalia through another overseas defendant, Barira Hassan Abdullahi, according to the charges.

The conspiracy had been in operation since 2011, prosecutors said.

Almost all of the transactions involved relatively small amounts of money, a few hundred dollars or so. The total for all of the transactions was $8,350.

According to court records, the defendants referred to the money they sent overseas as “living expenses,” and they repeatedly used code words such as “orphans” and “brothers in the mountains” to refer to Shabab fighters, and “camels” to refer to trucks needed by the group, the Justice Department said.

The Seattle area boasts the second-largest Somali population in the U.S., behind Minneapolis-St. Paul. Over the years, the FBI and federal prosecutors have struggled to make inroads into the community.

In 2009, a Somali-born Roosevelt High School graduate, Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, pleaded guilty in Minnesota to terrorism-related charges in connection with several young Somalis disappearing from their homes and turning up in Somalia fighting for al-Shabaab. His attorney said Isse was likely being recruited as a suicide bomber.

That same year, another young Seattle man — whose name has never officially been released — was suspected by the FBI of being one of the men who detonated a truck bomb in Mogadishu that killed 21 people, mostly African peacekeepers. At the time, the FBI said it believed that “outside influences” were at work in Seattle’s Somali community, trying to recruit and radicalize young men to carry out jihad in their homeland.

In 2008, a Seattle man and convert to Islam, Ruben Shumpert, was reportedly killed in a U.S.-supported rocket attack near Mogadishu. Prosecutors said Shumpert fled to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab to avoid going to prison here on gun and counterfeiting charges.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.comInformation from Seattle Times archives is included n this story.

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