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Young men vanish into Somalia , stirring fears of terrorist recruitment

ICC Note

One of the aims of Islamic extremists in Somalia is to establish Islamic state where Christians and other non-Muslims can’t live. In 2008 alone, the extremists murdered more than six Christians. This article talks about how Somali-Americans are lured to join the Islamic extremists in Somalia .

By Bob Drogin

01/18/2009 Somalia (Los Angeles Times)-Reporting from Minneapolis — Tall and lean, with a wispy mustache and shy smile, 17-year-old Burhan Hassan chalked up A’s last fall as a senior at Roosevelt High School , vowing to become a doctor or lawyer.

After school and on weekends, he studied Islam at the nearby Abubakar As-Saddique mosque. He joined its youth group.

“He wanted to go to Harvard,” said his uncle Osman Ahmed. “That was his dream.”

Instead Hassan has gone to Somalia , the anarchic East African nation that his family fled when he was a toddler. On election day, Hassan and five other youths slipped away from their homes here, and anguished family members now say they may have joined a Taliban-style Islamic militia that U.S. authorities call a terrorist organization.

The youths, who have U.S. passports, followed a well-trod trail from Minneapolis to Mogadishu . Another group took off in August. The FBI believes that over the last two years, 12 to 20 Minnesotans have gone to Somalia .

As a result, a joint terrorism task force led by the FBI is scrambling to determine if extremist Islamic groups are seeking recruits here in the nation’s largest Somali community — as well as in San Diego , Seattle , Boston and other cities.

“We’re aware that these guys have traveled from Minneapolis and other parts of the country,” said E.K. Wilson, the FBI spokesman here. “Our concern obviously is they’ve been recruited somehow to fight or to train as terrorists.”

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.

In late November, Homeland Security officials put the imam of the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque and the coordinator of its youth group on a no-fly list. They were barred at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from leaving on a pilgrimage to Mecca .

Saeed Fahia, a community activist and local historian, said many youths struggle with alienation in the cultural cross-fire of Somali tradition and American freedom.

“They’re easy to manipulate,” he said. Those who went to Somalia , he added, “are trying to find a mission in life. They’re trying to find out where they came from and who they are.”

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.

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