The Portrait of the Minnesotan Islamic Terrorist as a Young Man?

The LA Times reports today on young Minnesota Muslims, in the 60,000 strong Somali immigrant community there, who are being recruited by terrorist organizations, and sneaking off to East Africa (on American passports!) to apparently “fight or train as terrorists” and maybe even return to the United States to act as suicide bombers.

Already, 12-20 youth from the community have vanished, including one who has apparently become the first American suicide bomber:

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.”

Officials believe the naturalized American was on a terrorist team that detonated five car bombs in two northern Somali cities on Oct. 29, killing at least 30 people, including U.N. aid workers.

Ahmed phoned his sister in Minneapolis a day before the bombings to say he would not see her again, according to a family friend. “She thought he was sick,” the friend said. The next day, someone else called from Somalia to say he had “gone to paradise” as a martyr for Islam.

The LA Times article also suggests that the local mosques may be secretly radicalizing the teens:  

It’s not clear that the still-missing Minnesotans have joined Shabab [a terrorist group in Somalia] or were radicalized at local mosques to join the jihad. But many family members and community activists believe they have.

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.

The baby-faced senior at Harding High School in St. Paul had attended both the Abubakar As-Saddique and the Darul Da’wah mosques, 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.”

On Aug. 1, Mustafa told his mother he “was just going to do his laundry,” Yusuf said. “And he never came back.”

The youth phoned his mother several days later to say he was in Somalia. He would not say who paid for his ticket, who organized his travel or why he had gone. Other missing youths are said to have made similar calls home.

“No one knows for sure who recruited them,” said Abdisalam Adam, an educator who heads the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center around the corner from the high-rises. “But they obviously did not wake up one morning and decide to go.”

At first, some community elders and clerics warned families to keep silent to avoid a repeat of the FBI raids, arrests and deportations that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. But the wall of silence began to crumble in November, after the second group went missing.

Keep silent? Really?

Most galling is the response of the local Minnesota Islamic clergy, who have been put on the FBI’s “no-fly” list:

It blamed the travel ban on “false, unsubstantiated rumors.”

The leader of another mosque under scrutiny, the Darul Da’wah center in St. Paul, Minn., denied rumors in the Somali community that the alleged suicide bomber and several other missing men were among his followers.

“Nobody who is part of my mosque left for Somalia except one man who went for his health,” the imam, Hassan A. Mohamud, insisted in an interview last week. “He left for depression, stress that he was feeling, and he will be back in three months.”

It might seem odd to seek a restorative cure in a country that has been mired in war for 18 years and now is known for its pirates.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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