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US man pleads guilty to fighting for Somali militants

A file photo taken on March 5, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda linked al-Shebab recruits walking down a street in the Deniile district of the Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation. (AFP)
WASHINGTON: A US man who joined Somalia’s Al-Shabab insurgents and allegedly attacked Kenyan peacekeepers in Somalia pleaded guilty Friday to supporting a foreign terror group.
Baltimore native Maalik Alim Jones, 32, was accused of joining the rebels in 2011 where he took small arms training and joined attacks by Al-Shabab’s Jaysh Ayman commando unit against African Union troops sent to help stabilize the long-troubled country.
Jones spent four years in the country and appeared together with other Al-Shabab fighters in videos recovered from a cellphone on the body of a Al-Shabab fighter killed in an attack.
Federal prosecutors presented evidence that he had trained in using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades while with the Al-Shabab militants, an officially designated foreign terrorist organization by the US.
Jones, who according to the Baltimore Sun grew up in the city’s African-American Muslim community, was arrested by Somali authorities in 2015 as he tried to board a boat to Yemen.
He was then repatriated to the United States where he first pleaded not guilty to terror-related charges.
“As he admitted in court today, Maalik Jones traveled to Somalia, was trained by Al-Shabab in the use of an AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenades and took up arms for four years as a terrorist fighter,” said Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim in a statement.
“For his allegiance to this lawless, terrorist organization that vows to destroy America and its values, Maalik Jones been held to account in an American court of law.”
Maalik faces a range of charges that bring up to life imprisonment, and a minimum of 30 years on firearms-related charges. He will be sentenced on Jan. 25.

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