The FBI is worried about ‘bleed-out’ if these Somali Muslims return to Minnesota after waging jihad in Somalia. Here’s an idea – don’t let them return. Add them to the watch list – arrest them if they try to return.
Instead Hassan has gone to Somalia, the anarchic East African nation that his family fled when he was a toddler. On election day, Hassan and five other youths slipped away from their homes here, and anguished family members now say they may have joined a Taliban-style Islamic militia that U.S. authorities call a terrorist organization.
The youths, who have U.S. passports, followed a well-trod trail from Minneapolis to Mogadishu. Another group took off in August. The FBI believes that over the last two years, 12 to 20 Minnesotans have gone to Somalia.
As a result, a joint terrorism task force led by the FBI is scrambling to determine if extremist Islamic groups are seeking recruits here in the nation’s largest Somali community — as well as in San Diego, Seattle, Boston and other cities.
“We’re aware that these guys have traveled from Minneapolis and other parts of the country,” said E.K. Wilson, the FBI spokesman here. “Our concern obviously is they’ve been recruited somehow to fight or to train as terrorists.”
Topping their concern is the case of Shirwa Ahmed, a 27-year-old former Minneapolis resident who went to Somalia in 2007 — and who may be what Wilson called “the first occasion of a U.S. citizen suicide bomber.”
“They each support a particular warlord back in Somalia,” Omar Jamal, head of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, explained as he puffed on a huge hookah at the crowded Pyramids Cafe and Shisha Lounge.
Abdurahman Yusuf, a local Head Start worker, is convinced that his 17-year-old nephew, Mustafa Ali, was lured to Somalia to join the radical group. “He went to fight for the cause,” Yusuf said.
Last summer, the youth embraced the extremist Saudi style of Islam known as Wahhabism, and praised Shabab as the “liberators” of Somalia.
“I told him, ‘This is wrong — your father and your grandfather don’t believe this,’ ” Yusuf recalled in an interview. “He told me they were ignorant. He called me an unbeliever.”
Family members also found paperwork showing he had nearly $2,000 in airline tickets from Universal Travel — a tiny business tucked behind the high-rises — even though he had no job or savings.
The itinerary showed the six youths flew to Amsterdam, changed planes for Nairobi and caught a connecting flight to the Indian Ocean port of Malindi, Kenya.