Minn. man used settlement from 2007 bridge collapse to join ISIS: FBI


One night in August 2007, 10-year-old Mohamed Roble was riding on a school bus when it pulled onto a Minneapolis bridge during the evening commute. Officials said that Roble, 62 other children, and the bus driver were traveling on the Interstate 35W bridge when it began to crumble into the Mississippi River below.

The disaster would become the deadliest bridge collapse in modern US history, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. Roble’s parents filed a lawsuit after the collapse against Minnesota and others and eventually reached a settlement.

In 2014, Roble began to receive money from this settlement, initially getting more than $91,000, according to a court filing this week. Federal authorities said in the filing that not long after Roble got that money, he left the country, making his way to China, Turkey, and, ultimately, Syria, where they say he joined the Islamic State.

The FBI says that once there, he used the money from his settlement to pay for things like cars and weddings, showing ‘‘financial generosity’’ once he got there.

According to an FBI affidavit, filed with a criminal complaint in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota on Tuesday, Roble joined the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and is fighting in Syria. In the affidavit, an FBI agent states that the bureau came to this conclusion based on an investigation that included comments from an unnamed ‘‘confidential human source’’ and financial evidence and social media postings.

Roble became the 11th man from the Twin Cities area charged with supporting the group, according to the Justice Department. All told, 13 people from Minnesota have been charged in connection with the Islamic State, a number that is second only to New York.

Eight people in Minnesota have been convicted, while the cases of four others are still pending. The FBI has swept up 10 other young men from the large Somali American community in the Twin Cities, prompting anxieties among parents and others in the area.

The FBI affidavit mentions these other cases, noting that one of these men — Abdi Nur, who was charged in 2014 with supporting the Islamic State, and who the FBI says joined the group in Syria — is Roble’s uncle. The FBI states that Nur was last known to be fighting in Syria, and at two points in 2015, Roble’s iTunes account was accessed from the same IP address as Nur’s Facebook account, suggesting that they were together.

This document also says that Roble’s debit card was repeatedly used in a city in southern Turkey — not far from the Syrian border crossing — to buy clothing, electronics, and sports equipment.

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