Waging jihad from Minnesota to Mogadishu?

In “Willful blindness, from Minnesota to Mumbai,” we discussed the case of Shirwa Ahmed. A Somali immigrant to Minnesota, Ahmed returned to Somalia to wage jihad. On a mission from Minneapolis, Shirwa Ahmed killed 29 people in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia last October.

Federal authorities are investigating whether other young Somali men who have disappeared in the Twin Cities metro area in recent months have been recruited to fight for terrorist groups in Somalia. Today the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the families of the disappearing Somali men are speaking out:

Nearly a dozen local boys and young men have gone missing in the past two years, said Somali community leader Abdirizak Bihi, whose nephew is among them. There likely are more, he said.

Some of the men and boys have called home saying they are in Somalia, without specifying why. There is concern they were brainwashed and then left to fight in the civil war their parents fled from, local leaders said Saturday.

Without specifying who they believe recruited the young men for such a mission, leaders said investigators should look closely at the money at local Muslim institutions.

“(The missing men and boys) have been financially supported to leave the country with the promise of utopian society,” Bihi said. “(But) they are in harm’s way.”

Local concerns grew after a Minneapolis man, Shirwa Ahmed, disappeared and killed himself in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia on Oct. 29.

Some in the Minnesota Islamic community do not believe young men are leaving in droves for Somalia, calling the claims hearsay and finger-pointing being used to divide their community.

But the families who met with the media Saturday said the claims are true and someone should be held accountable for the disappearance of their children.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Hussein Samatar, executive director of the African Development Center and a relative of one of the missing boys. “But these children left because they believe Islam permits jihad. … That cannot happen in Minnesota. That cannot happen in the United States or in the Islamic community. … Enough is enough.”

The families of three young men appeared at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood Saturday to talk about their missing relatives. Many of them declined to be identified, citing fear for their sons.

The three missing are 17-year-old Burhan Hassan, a senior at Roosevelt High School; 18-year-old Mohamoud Hassan, a University of Minnesota student; and 19-year-old Abdisalam Ali, also a student at the U. All were discovered missing Nov. 5, and they are believed to have left the United States as a group.

There are many more suspected missing, Bihi said, but most families are afraid to speak up. The aim of Saturday’s news conference was to rally support from the greater Minnesota community and give courage to other Somali families who have missing sons, leaders said.

“For even one family to come out and spell out what has happened to them is very big,” Samatar said.

“We are all afraid,” Bihi said.

It is admirable that the wall of silence around these events is coming down from within Minnesota’s Somali community. But if the disappearing Somali men are waging jihad, we can only hope that they are pursuing it in Mogadishu rather than in Minnesota.

The admonition to “follow the money” at local Muslim institutions is certainly good advice, though we are left to wonder what the “local [Somali] leaders” were referring to. In the meantime, the proposition that “we are all afraid” should probably be more widely applicable than Bihi intended.

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