So why are authorities suddenly concerned?
In the past year developments within the Somali terrorist organizations have resulted in splits and fractionalization, with the most radical element, al-Shabaab, the former armed wing of the Islamic Courts Union movement, breaking away and forging closer alliances with al-Qaeda. As a result, Somalia is quickly becoming a new safe haven for al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab and its leaders were designated a terrorist organization by the State Department back in March.
The most specific concern of Homeland Security officials about the departure of Somalis and other American Muslims for the terror training camps in Somalia is not that they will be killed, as was Minneapolis suicide bomber Shirwa Ahmed, but that they will get trained in the Somali terrorist camps and return home to wage jihad against the U.S. from within.
And al-Shabaab has made clear its intent to attack the U.S. and kill Americans.
MEMRI has translated a video that recently appeared on numerous Somali websites — many of them run from the U.S. — in which al-Shabaab called on Americans and Europeans to join the jihad in Somalia. The video directly threatens Americans with extermination:
I’m telling the kuffar [infidels], the English people, the American people. … We’re coming for you! We’re going to exterminate you all!
Back here in the U.S., many of these sentiments can be heard in many mosques preaching violence and hatred towards America, the country which gave hundreds of thousands of Somalis refuge. In Minneapolis, much of the focus is on the extremist Abubakar as-Saddique mosque, where many of the missing men appear to have been radicalized and recruited. So concerned are Homeland Security authorities about the potential radicalization from the mosque that its imam and youth coordinator were prevented from leaving the country last week to attend the hajj in Saudi Arabia.
In Columbus, several mosques openly preach against America and encourage jihad. One mosque, Masjid Omar Ibn el-Khattab, nearby the Ohio State University campus, was the center of the largest known al-Qaeda cell in the U.S. since 9/11. Three members of that cell have been convicted and are serving prison sentences for terrorism support, though at least 10 others known to be involved have not yet been charged. One of those al-Qaeda members, Nuradin Abdi, a Columbus Somali resident, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years after threatening to blow up a Columbus-area shopping mall.
Another U.S. citizen, Ruben Luis Shumpert, an ex-convict Seattle barber and Muslim convert, was killed in Somalia earlier this year while fighting with al-Shabaab. Shumpert fled the U.S. for Somalia in 2006 before being sentenced on gun and counterfeit convictions associated with terrorism. In a taunting phone call to FBI agents after he had fled, Shumpert vowed that he and his Somali terrorist associates “would destroy everything the United States stood for.”
Thus, as seen in these cases from Minneapolis, Boston, Columbus, and Seattle, fears by authorities of Somali terror spreading to the U.S. through the local Somali community are hardly unfounded. Why Homeland Security and FBI officials have been so slow to respond to this growing threat remains unanswered.
One area they are beginning to take action in is with the flow of funds from the U.S. to Somalia. As noted in a Somalitalk article on the Minneapolis event last year, the hundreds of attendees were instructed on how to illegally transfer funds through the virtually untraceable hawala money transfer networks based in the U.S. The Columbus Dispatch reported two weeks ago that banks in the Columbus area, which is home to the second largest Somali population in the U.S. behind Minneapolis, are closing accounts for these U.S.-based hawala operations concerned about their inability to track where exactly the money goes after the transfer overseas.
Amazingly, however, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and his Somali staff liaison, Abdirizak Farah, are pressuring the local banks to create alternatives to keep the money flowing back to Somalia.
For several years, the media and Homeland Security authorities have failed to take seriously the terrorist threat that has been growing in many communities. Now stunned by these disappearances in Minneapolis and other locations, they are finally beginning to take notice. Whether these very recent efforts will be able to dismantle the extensive terrorist support network here before the threat rebounds from the terrorist camps in Somalia back to the U.S. remains to be seen.