Newsweek: Were Minnesota Somalis recruited for jihad?


FBI and counterterrorism officials suspect that young Somali men who have disappeared from the Twin Cities are part of a terrorism group, according to an article in the currrent issue of Newsweek

As many as 20 young men have disappeared over the last year and a half, and some Somalis have said that Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, the largest mosque in the area, may be connected. The imam of that mosque, Sheikh Abdirahman Ahmed, has denied any role in the disappearances. Last fall, placement on the federal no-fly list prevented the imam from making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Newsweek article explores the disappearances and the rumors and the perspective of counterterrorism officials. Parents of the missing young men and the FBI believe the youth have joined Al-Shabaab, a group on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Formed in 2004, Al-Shabaab has been fighting to restore sharia law to war-torn Somalia.

Here's more from Newsweek:

Since al-Shabab is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, traveling to Somalia to train or fight with the group is illegal. But security officials involved in the investigation have a bigger concern--that a jihadist group able to enlist U.S. nationals to fight abroad might also be able to persuade Somali-Americans to act as sleeper agents here in the United States. 
Al-Shabab has no history of targeting the U.S. But the group has grown closer to Al Qaeda since the American-backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in 2006. Al-Shabaab has since been working with a number of non-Somali operatives wanted by the United States, including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an architect of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, according to intelligence officials.

Newsweek offers one perspective, but it doesn't explain why Twin Cities Somalis -- especially youth who have been raised here -- might join Al-Shabaab. Some local Somalis dispute that Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization. Instead, they see it as an outlet for frustrated youth who believe Islamic law to be the only way to restore peace to their country. Such youth are vulnerable to calls to return to fight.