Defense challenges use of paid informant in Minnesota ISIS case

Members of Minnesota's Somali community cover their faces as they arrive Thursday, April 23, 2015, for a detention hearing in federal court in St. Paul, Minn. for four of the six Minnesotans who are accused of plotting to travel to Syria to ISIS.

AP Photo/Jim Mone

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Attorneys for four Minnesota men accused of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are challenging the government's use of a paid informant.

Family members have claimed the men were entrapped. A criminal complaint unsealed Monday showed the government relied in part on help from a man who once wanted to join ISIS himself.

Defense attorneys asked how the FBI could take his word when he had lied during a grand jury investigation and to federal agents before cooperating. They also suggested it was his idea to get fake passports.

FBI Special Agent Harry Samit acknowledged the informant was paid nearly $13,000. But he said one of the defendants first had the passport idea. And he said agents didn't rely only on the informant.

The criminal complaint charged six men with conspiring to provide and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Officials say the arrests are representative of a larger issue facing counterterrorism officials in the U.S.

"We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota," the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota, Andrew Luger, said Monday.

Luger said they were in contact with another Minnesota man, Abdi Nur, who has worked to recruit Western fighters from overseas. Nur was charged by Luger in 2014 with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS in absentia.