Somali-American youths join terror network in Minnesota
A group of Somali-American youth recruited to fight for an Islamist militia in Somalia were told it would be “fun,” court documents have shown. Some 20 young men — all but one of whom were of Somali descent — have been recruited to leave their homes in Minnesota to join a bitter civil war an ocean away.
One died while participating in a series of suicide bomb attacks in northern Somalia, officials said. Four other were also killed in the fighting, local media reports.
“The sad reality is that the vibrant Somali community here in Minneapolis has lost many of its sons to fighting in Somalia,” US attorney Todd Jones said in a statement.
“These young men have been recruited to fight in a foreign war by individuals and groups using violence against government troops and civilians.”
Criminal charges have been filed against 14 men linked to the conspiracy to support terrorism and the investigation is “ongoing,” the justice department said in a statement.
All of those charged are from the Minneapolis area. Seven remain at large and are believed to be outside of the United States.
Four of the men have pleaded guilty in the case and two others have been released pending trial, officials said.
Mahamud Said Omar, who is accused of providing money to transport the youth to Somalia and buy them AK-47s, is currently being held in the Netherlands.
Three of those who pleaded guilty are young men who admitted to traveling to Somalia to join the Al-Qaeda inspired Islamist group Shebab.
They were among six youth who left Minneapolis in late 2007 to “fight the Ethiopians in Somalia,” according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday.
The most recent group of recruits left in October 2009, officials said.
One of the young men who pleaded guilty told investigators that the trainees at his camp “included dozens of other young ethnic Somalis from Somalia, elsewhere in Africa, Europe, and the United States.”
Two of the Minneapolis youth left after a week or two.
The others were trained in the use of small arms and military-style tactics by Somali, Arab and Western instructors and were also “indoctrinated with anti-Ethiopian, anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western beliefs,” the charging document said.
One of the young men admitted to taking part in an armed ambush of Ethiopian troops with the young man who died at the wheel of an explosive-laden truck.
Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, who remains at large, is accused of recruiting the young men in a series of meetings in homes, a local mosque and public places.
He allegedly spoke of his experience fighting along the Somali-Kenyan border and explained that “he experienced true brotherhood while fighting in Somalia and that travel for jihad was the best thing that they could do,” the complaint alleges.
Faarax also “told the co-conspirators that traveling to Somalia to fight jihad will be fun and not to be afraid.”
Abdiweli Yassin Isse is accused of raising money to finance the trips to Somalia by telling community members that he was raising money to send young men to study the Koran in Saudi Arabia.
Both men are believed to be outside of the United States.
US officials expressed gratitude to the Somali-American community for helping with the investigation.
“I emphasize the sole focus of our efforts in this matter has been the criminal conduct of a small number of mainly Somali-American individuals and not the broader Somali-American community itself, which has consistently expressed deep concern about this pattern of recruitment activity in support of al-Shebab,” said Ralph Boelter, who heads the Minneapolis field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. By Mira Oberman/AFP/Chicago