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Known terrorist spent year in US after being wrongly released by feds — and GOP lawmakers demand answers

A Somali terrorist was allowed into the country and was able to operate freely for almost a year before authorities realized their error and rearrested him.

Republican lawmakers are demanding information from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about what happened to the man — and whether US citizens funded any part of his journey to or stay in the US.

The 27-year-old Somalian — who so far has not been identified by name — was on the watchlist as “a confirmed member of al Shabaab” involved in the use, manufacture or transportation of explosives or firearms, but a border bungle meant he was released after initially being arrested for crossing into the country illegally in California in March 2023.

Members of the hardline al Shabaab group hold their weapons in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. REUTERS
Members of al-Shabaab. Reuters

A letter from Republican lawmakers seeks to find the al-Shabaab member’s path from illegally crossing the border to Minnesota, were he was eventually rearrested in January, and whether he received any government benefits.

It also seeks to find if he took a commercial flight with US citizens to reach their state and if his travel was funded with taxpayer dollars, according to the Tuesday letter, first obtained by The Post.

The letter states: “Due to Minnesota’s far distance from the border, it is not an easy task for migrants to travel to the state …

“Did the al-Shabbab terrorist travel to Minnesota with the assistance, either direct or indirect of an [Non-Governmental Organization]? If so, which NGO was responsible for transporting the individual to Minnesota?”

Border Patrol agents apprehend migrants in Campo, California. Pat Benic/UPI/Shutterstock

The terrorist organization member had initially crossed into California and been arrested by the Border Patrol. However, the Terrorist Screening Center determined he was a “mismatch” to the terror watchlist, leading to his release.

Nearly a year later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) nabbed him after federal authorities made a “redetermination” and realized he was associated with the Somalian militant group.

Al-Shabaab was formed as the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, which controlled the southern part of the country in late 2006.

Its rule was defeated in 2007, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, but it has since operated as an underground network and is involved in wars in and around Somalia.

Migrants wait to be transported by Border Patrol agents in Jacumba Hotsprings, California. New York Post

It was designated a terrorist organization in 2008 by the US government and is notorious for carrying out bombings and suicide attacks. 

In 2013, al-Shabaab was responsible for a massacre at the Westgate mall in Kenya, killing 67 individuals.

US forces have conducted six strikes in Somalia against al-Shabaab already this year, killing two dozen militants in the latest actions, according to CNN.

In a February press conference, ICE Acting Director Patrick Lechleitner said his agency arrested the individual “within 48 hours” of learning his true identity.

“The Biden administration’s open-borders agenda allowed a known terrorist to roam freely throughout our state, and now they must answer for their inexcusable negligence,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said in a statement to The Post regarding the probe.

A Border Patrol vehicle on the US side of the border wall across from Tijuana. Bloomberg News

The Border Patrol has recorded an ever-growing number of migrants listed on the terror watchlist attempting to enter the US illegally in recent years.

Between October 2023 and February, agents have already recorded 70 encounters at both the southern and northern borders, according to federal data.

There were 172 such encounters recorded in fiscal year 2023, which ran from October 2022 to September 2023, 98 in fiscal year 2022, 16 in fiscal year 2021 and 14 between fiscal years 2017 and 2020.

In March, Border Patrol agents apprehended Lebanese national Basel Bassel Ebbadi, 22, who told personnel that he came to the US “to try to make a bomb,” according to internal federal documents first obtained by The Post.

Ebbadi admitted to a border agent that he is a member of Hezbollah and was later confirmed as a “positive match” on the terror watchlist.