Minn. Somalis cancel public statement on disappearing youth

Imams, community leaders, and parents of Somali youth who have disappeared in recent months planned a press conference in response to recent media coverage. But disagreements led the organizers to cancel the event.

Several young Somali men have left the Twin Cities and their families and the FBI believe they may have joined Al-Shabab, an Islamist group in Somalia that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. Some have blamed Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in Minneapolis, a prominent mosque that many of the men attended. The mosque denies any relationship with the disappearances.

Last week, Newsweek wrote about the disappearances and ran a photograph of the mosque's imam. A lot of their story paralleled work done by Abdi Aynte, a local BBC reporter who writes for MNIndy.

Members of the Somali community organized a press conference to take place in Cedar-Riverside today to respond to the media coverage. It was not immediately clear why the press conference was canceled. A representative from Abubakar e-mailed this:

I have been just notified that today's press release has been canceled due to some disagreements among the committee that prepared the program.

The Newsweek story focused on Al-Shabab as potentially dangerous to the U.S. The group, which means "the youth" in Arabic, is seeking to establish sharia law in Somalia.

As if to underscore the danger, early last week the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned in a bulletin for the first time that al-Shabab might try to carry out an attack in America--timed to disrupt the presidential inauguration. A government official, who asked for anonymity discussing sensitive intelligence, tells NEWSWEEK the information came from an informant who notified security officials that people affiliated with al-Shabab might already be here. The tip-off proved to be a false alarm. Still, security officials view the bulletin and the disappearances in Minnesota as a warning that Somalia's brew of lawlessness and radicalism might rebound on the United States. "You have to ask yourself, how long is it before one of these guys comes back here and blows himself up?" says a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, who also wouldn't be quoted on the record discussing intel.

But many Somalis here don't see Al-Shabab as a terrorist organization. Instead, they view it as a group trying to restore order to Somalia, which has been in chaos since the civil war began in 1991.

Somalis, please let us know what you think about all this!