The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of dozens of young Somali men from Minneapolis took an expectedly ominous turn yesterday with the indictments of eight men on terrorism-related charges. As suspected, the men arranged to send the young Somalis back to their home country to conduct terrorist attacks, after being “indoctrinated with anti-Ethiopian, anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western beliefs.” Initially, the FBI had hoped it was less of a jihadi mission than home-country politics:
Federal authorities unsealed terrorism-related charges against eight men Monday, accusing them of recruiting at least 20 young Somali Americans from Minnesota to join an extremist Islamist insurgency in Somalia.
The newly named suspects make up one of the largest alleged terrorist networks in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, analysts said. Assistant Attorney General David S. Kris said the government continues to investigate the alleged recruitment, and sources indicated that FBI and grand jury inquiries are active in San Diego, Boston and Columbus, Ohio, into the disappearance abroad of dozens of Muslim Americans since 2007.
The charges cap a year-long FBI investigation into the departures, most of them among men of Somali descent in their teens and 20s, to join al-Shabab, an extremist group with ties to al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabab opposes Somalia’s weak but internationally supported government and seeks instead a fundamentalist Islamic state under sharia law. It has attacked Ethiopian and African Union troops, targeted neighboring countries, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and used al-Qaeda operatives to train American recruits, U.S. officials said. The State Department listed al-Shabab as a terrorist group last year.
As we have mentioned before, the local Somali community has worked closely with the FBI to find out what happened to their sons:
Since the departures, U.S. officials have reached out to the Somali American community, estimated at up to 200,000 foreign-born residents and their relatives. Officials are concerned that decades of political strife in Somalia and a recent influx of younger, poorer immigrants could make them vulnerable to radical appeals.
Officials praised the cooperation they have received in their investigation of al-Shabab.
“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-Shabab,” said Ralph S. Boelter, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office.
How deep? Five months ago, the Twin Cities Somali community staged a protest march against the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which had attempted to dissuade them from cooperating with the FBI. They wanted answers about whether they would ever see the missing young men again, and right now, that looks very doubtful. Even if they’re still alive, the US will not be anxious to allow them to return after their indoctrination and training.
US Attorney called the revelations of al-Qaeda recruitment a “sad truth.” No one wins in this case.