OTTAWA — Terrorist recruiters are targeting young Canadian Somali women to take up arms, the head of the Canadian Somali Congress told U.S. politicians Wednesday.
In testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Ahmed Hussen suggested the reason might be increased police and security service attention over the recruitment of “dozens” of young Canadian Somali men from Ottawa and Toronto in recent years.
“Lately, the recruiters have turned their attention to the facilitation of young Canadian Somali women into joining al-Shabab,” the radical Somali youth militia now fully integrated with al-Qaeda, Hussen said in a prepared statement.
Much of the youth recruiting is believed to be through the Internet and an online mix of religious tracts, rap music, videos and recruiting pitches delivered in English. Visiting extremist clerics are another propaganda source.
The fear, said Hussen, is al-Shabab will employ Canadians and other westerners to extend its reach outside the war and famine ravaged East African nation, where it is battling a weak Western-backed government to turn the country into an Islamic state.
“There is no shortage of foot soldiers and young men that al-Shabab can recruit in Somalia, so why would they spend all this money, effort and at great risk to recruit westerners, people who hold Canadian, U.S. and British passports?,” he said during questioning by committee members.
“It’s because we think they have aspirations beyond East Africa. They’ve proven that by attacking Uganda,” last July with two suicide bombers, killing 79 people gathered to watch the FIFA World Cup Final on television.
U.S. officials are becoming increasingly worried, too, particularly after capturing an al-Shabab commander who had allegedly been a liaison with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an active Yemeni group that has tried to strike the U.S.
New York Republican Rep. Peter T. King, presiding Wednesday over the third in a series of controversial congressional hearings examining the radicalization of Muslim-Americans, said committee staff investigators have determined that 40 Americans and 20 Canadians have joined the group in Somalia.