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Lighter sentences for 2 men in Islamic State case

Minneapolis: Two men who cooperated with authorities investigating a Minnesota conspiracy to join the Islamic State group in Syria were rewarded with lighter sentences today by a federal judge, who told one of the men he hoped his lenience wasn’t a mistake.

Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf, 20, was sentenced to the 21 months he’s already served in jail plus 20 years of supervised release. Abdirizak Warsame, 21, didn’t fare as well, but his sentence of two and a half years in prison was two years less than prosecutors sought.

District Judge Michael Davis, who will sentence all nine men in the conspiracy this week in separate hearings, said it didn’t make sense to send Yusuf to prison. He pleaded guilty to a terror charge and testified against several of the others.

“I think we’ll miss the opportunity to help this young kid,” Davis said of sending him to prison. “I hope I’m not wrong.”

“I will not let you down, your honor,” Yusuf told the judge. Earlier, Yusuf said he was “not the same naive 17-year-old” who was drawn into the conspiracy, and said he now rejects the Islamic State.

“ISIL’s ideology is flawed,” Yusuf said. “There is nothing Islamic about their so-called state.”

Prosecutors had asked for 42 months, but US Attorney Andy Luger praised Yusuf for cooperating with their case and told Davis he accepted the shorter sentence.

Davis was sterner with Warsame, who told the judge he had been manipulated. Davis said he didn’t buy Warsame’s claims that he’s no longer a radical. “The problem I have with you is everything has seemed so smooth,” the judge said. But he went on to tell Warsame he was getting lucky.

“For the next round of sentencings, it’s going to be a whole different ballgame, so count your blessings,” Davis said.

One more man was to be sentenced later today, and the remaining six tomorrow and Wednesday.

The sentencings cap a long court case that shined a light on terrorism recruitment in Minnesota. The state, with the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the US, has struggled with the issue in recent years.

The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Syria in recent years. Before that, more than 22 men were recruited to al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy of the nine began in spring 2014, when a group of friends began inspiring and recruiting each other to travel to Syria to join IS.