By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON | Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:00pm EST
(Reuters) - In a sign of evolving U.S. legal tactics in counter-terrorism operations, two Swedish citizens and a former British citizen detained in Africa in August have been charged in a U.S. court with supporting Somali-based Islamist militants.
The charges were filed in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, even though court papers and a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office make no specific allegation that the three - all of whom are of Somali extraction - posed threats to Americans or U.S.-related targets.
The three suspects - two Swedish citizens and a former London resident whose British citizenship recently was revoked - were charged with supporting the militant group al-Shabaab, illegal use of high-powered firearms, and participating in what prosecutors called "an elite al-Shabaab suicide-bomber program."
Ephraim Savitt, a former federal prosecutor who represents one of the Swedish defendants, said he was unaware of any secret evidence that the men threatened U.S. interests, and he saw "no prosecutorial hook whatever to the United States."