WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Somali-American teenager whose case was a test for efforts to
deradicalize Islamist extremists has been sent back to prison after apparently violating an agreement that put him in a “halfway house,” federal officials said on Wednesday.
Student Abdullahi Yusuf, 19, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Minneapolis in February to conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization after he tried to travel to Syria to join Islamic State.
A federal judge agreed not to send Yusuf to prison before his trial and instead installed him in a monitored location known as a halfway house where he went on a program to integrate him back into the community.
But the same judge, Michael Davis, ordered Yusuf to prison a few days ago. “The judge has sent him back into the custody of the Marshals Service,” said Ben Petok, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota.
He did not say why the decision was taken. A court official said there had been an “issue” at the halfway house in apparent violation of Yusuf’s conditions for staying there but did not elaborate.
Academics and community workers saw Yusuf’s case as a possible precedent for terrorism suspects who are not directly linked to violence to go through educational programs that would distance them from extremism.
Prosecutors had opposed sending Yusuf on the deradicalization program as they considered him a flight risk. He had been arrested last year at Minneapolis airport trying to board a flight to Turkey on his way to join Islamic State.
An alleged co-conspirator from Minneapolis, Abdi Nur, made it to Syria and started fighting with the group, federal officials say.
In recent years, dozens of people from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, many of them young Somali-American men, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support Islamic State or al Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group, according to U.S.