Last November, the news that a Minneapolis resident had returned to his native Somalia to conduct a suicide bombing attack shocked the Twin Cities. At the time, we assumed that Shirwa Ahmed had been radicalized before entering the US. Now the FBI says that Ahmed got recruited right here in Minnesota, and apparently so did a number of his acquaintances — who went missing at about the same time:
The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, said Monday that a Somali-American man who was one of several suicide bombers in a terrorist attack last October in Somalia had apparently been indoctrinated into his extremist beliefs while living in the United States.
The man, Shirwa Ahmed, was the first known suicide bomber with American citizenship. He immigrated with his family to the Minneapolis area in the mid-1990s, Mr. Mueller said, but he returned to Somalia after he was recruited by a militant group.
“It appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota,” Mr. Mueller said, speaking at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations. Minneapolis claims the country’s largest Somali population.
A terrorist network, Shahab, has conducted a serious recruitment effort in the Twin Cities. We have a large Somali refugee community, mainly Muslims, who fled the violence and anarchy of their country. The dislocation they feel apparently creates an opportunity to exploit them for terrorist ends, as the FBI has discovered.
Rusty at My Pet Jawa says we shouldn’t be surprised to find radicalization here in the US, given the opportunities:
But there are better example than Shirwa Ahmed of the homegrown jihadi phenomenon. In Ahmed’s case one might make a good argument that although he was radicalized here in the US, that his radicalization took place in the context of a what is essentially a foreign community: the Somali diaspora.
Ruben Shumpert [shown right] (aka, “Amir Abdul Muhaimin” called a “martyr” on Shabaab’s official website) was a Seattle convert to Islam, killed on the jihad fields of Somalia. Or how about Daniel Maldonado (aka “Daniel Aljughaifi”), a native born American who converted to Islam, became an active administrator at a popular online Muslim youth forum, and who is now sitting in a federal prison for receiving weapons training from al Qaeda in Somalia.
Another famous homegrown jihadi? Adam Gadahn. He didn’t become jihad supporter after he went to Pakistan. He was radicalized in suburban Orange County and only later went to Pakistan where he eventually hooked up with al Qaeda.
It doesn’t take a genius to find jihadi forums on the Internet, Rusty reminds us, where those open to radicalization can find enablers. Gadahn and Shumpert certainly prove that case. However, the Somali diaspora here in the Twin Cities appears to provide fertile ground for such conversion — and we need to find ways to assimilate them more quickly and watch for terrorist recruitment more closely in the future. Because the next target may not be Somalia, but the Mall of America.