Wednesday, January 13, 2021 5:33 PM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota man who traveled to Syria and Iraq where prosecutors say he became a soldier for the Islamic State group pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a terrorism count.
Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, 24, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court of Minnesota to one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
According to his plea agreement and court documents, Al-Madioum left his family while they were visiting extended relatives in Morocco in 2015 and went to Istanbul, Turkey, where members of the Islamic State group helped him cross into Syria. Once in Syria, he joined other members of IS, who brought him to Mosul, Iraq, where he enrolled as a member of the group and began receiving military training.
Al-Madioum admitted in his guilty plea that he was assigned to a battalion that was responsible for training and preparing foreign fighters to carry out suicide attacks in Europe.
He admitted he was a soldier until he was injured while conducting military activities for the group. After his injury, he continued to receive payments from IS; he surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces in March 2019, according to the plea agreement.
Al-Madioum was in Syrian custody for more than a year, and was returned to Minnesota last September to face charges.
While in prison in Syria, Al-Madioum told FBI agents that he lost his right arm in an airstrike.
Al-Madioum also spoke to CBS News from Syrian prison in 2019, saying then that he never fought for the Islamic State group but had hopes of becoming a doctor, and that IS gave him a “blank check to buy whatever I wanted.”
Al-Madioum's plea agreement says he began researching Islamic State group in 2014. Court documents say he told FBI that he got advice about joining the group from a Twitter account that authorities say is known to post IS propaganda.
Al-Madioum is among several Minnesotans suspected of leaving the U.S. to join the Islamic State group. In total, roughly three dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Somalia or Syria. In 2016, nine Minnesota men were sentenced on federal charges of conspiring to join the Islamic State group.
Al-Madioum, who was 18 when he left for Syria, is a native of Morocco and a naturalized U.S. citizen.