Thursday 18 January 2018

Child survivor of Minneapolis bridge collapse arrested after using settlement money to try and join Islamic State

Mohamed Roble, a survivor of the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse.
Mohamed Roble, a survivor of the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse.

A child survivor of a bridge collapse that killed 13 people is facing a terror charge after US authorities say he travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State group just a few weeks after collecting more than 91,000 dollars in settlement money for his injuries.

Mohamed Roble, 20, was charged on Wednesday with providing and conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.

He was weeks short of his 11th birthday in 2007 when the school bus he was in plummeted about 30 feet as the bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed into the Mississippi River. Roble, one of 145 people who were hurt, received the settlement funds on his 18th birthday.

Roble's name first surfaced in May during the trial of three Minnesota men who were convicted of conspiring to join IS. The bridge collapse was not mentioned at the trial, but The Associated Press news agency made the connection using public records.

Working phone numbers and current addresses for Roble's family members were not available and they could not be reached for comment.

Court documents filed on Wednesday show Roble received three court settlements when he turned 18 totalling 91,654 dollars. That money included a 65,431-dollar payment from the state's settlement fund.

According to evidence presented in federal court in May, Roble flew to Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2014 as part of an itinerary that included a trip to China. He was due to return to the US in June 2015, but never did, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force officer Joel Pajak said.

"We received information that Mr Roble ended up in Syria with his uncle, Abdi Nur," Mr Pajak said.

The FBI affidavit says Roble withdrew more than 47,000 dollars from his accounts over three months in 2014 while he was in Turkey.

"This large sum is consistent with previously mentioned CHS (a confidential informant working for the US government) reports that Roble was financially supporting himself and other members of Isil (another name for IS), including by purchasing vehicles to be used by members of Isil," the affidavit said.

Nur is among 10 men charged in the case and is believed to have joined IS. Nine others have been convicted on terror charges in Minnesota.

Prosecutors say the men were part of a group of friends in Minnesota's Somali community who recruited and inspired each other to join IS. The FBI has said that about a dozen young men have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Syria in recent years.

The affidavit filed Wednesday says that Nur was last known to be living in Syria with IS. Authorities say Roble and Nur accessed internet accounts from the same computer IP address within minutes of each other in May 2015, supporting the belief that they were in the same location.

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