US man pleads guilty to fighting for Shabaab jihadists
A US man who joined Somalia's Shabaab insurgents and allegedly attacked Kenyan peace-keepers in Somalia pleaded guilty Friday to supporting a foreign terror group.
Baltimore native Maalik Alim Jones, 32, was accused of joining the Islamist rebels in 2011 where he took small arms training and joined attacks by Shabaab'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 Shabaab fighter in videos recovered from a cellphone on the body of a Shabaab fighter killed in an attack.
Federal prosecutors presented evidence that he had trained in using assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades while with the Shabaab militants, an officially designated foreign terrorist organization by the United States.
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 charged.
"As he admitted in court today, Maalik Jones traveled to Somalia, was trained by al Shabaab 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 January 25.