Earlier this month ABC News reported that an American man had been killed in Somalia in a gun battle in Mogadishu — identifying him as Dahir Gurey Sheikh Ali Guled — while serving as a commander for the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab Somali terrorist group.
The following day, Somali Minister of Information Abrahman Omar Osman confirmed that Gurey had been killed, that he had entered the country to fight with Al-Shabaab earlier this year, and that documents identifying him as an American citizen had been recovered.
PJM can now confirm through multiple sources that Dahir Gurey is a former resident of Columbus, Ohio — home to the second largest Somali population in the country.
The first source confirming Gurey’s Columbus connection was Abdirahman Warsame of the Terror Free Somalia Foundation. Warsame made news last year as the first to confirm the identity of an 18-year-old Seattle man, Omar Mohamud, who had conducted a suicide bombing for Al-Shabaab in Somalia which killed seventeen African Union peacekeepers.
Warsame told Pajamas Media that concerns by the Somali community about Gurey fell on the deaf ears of Columbus FBI officials:
We warned them a while ago that he was seriously bad news, but because of his associations with Somali leaders close to some high-level politicians it became clear that nothing was going to be done about his activities. Politicians talk about dealing with radicalization in the Somali community, but the people they are dealing with are the same ones responsible for the radicalization in Columbus.
Warsame said that Gurey, a truck driver who attended a mosque in Columbus where several Al-Shabaab figures have appeared for fundraising and recruitment, had previously been arrested in Ethiopia but was released because he was a U.S. citizen. He then returned to Ohio, but was allowed by Homeland Security officials to leave the country again to join Al-Shabaab sometime in the past year.
Further confirmation of Gurey’s identity and his Columbus ties came late last week from a Homeland Security official who requested anonymity:
This is yet another black eye for the Columbus Joint Terrorism Task Force, which historically has had a serious problem distinguishing bad guys from the good guys.
FBI Cincinnati field office spokesman Michael Brooks said Monday the agency had no comment.
Just last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted a forum in Columbus addressing Somali youth radicalization in Columbus. In reporting on the event, Columbus Dispatch reporter Mark Ferenchik claimed: “As far as authorities know, no one has been recruited from the Columbus area.”
This claim, of course, came a week after the initial ABC News report that Gurey had been killed in Somalia.
Ferenchik did, however, acknowledge Al-Shabaab activity in the Columbus area, saying: “An indictment in Minnesota said that someone from Columbus is an unindicted conspirator who helped one of those charged in collecting money and forwarding it to Al-Shabaab.” The Columbus Dispatch was quick to downplay the story of local terrorist activity in an article published last month.
I have been reporting on the nationwide problem of Al-Shabaab fundraising and recruiting activity in the U.S. here at PJM since December 2007 — nearly a year before reports of Somali youths from Minneapolis leaving for jihad became national news. And while we continued with our coverage of the problem, the Columbus Dispatch assured readers that central Ohio did not have a terrorism problem. One December 2008 Dispatch story said:
FBI agents in Ohio have contacted the Columbus Somali community and have no knowledge of local terrorism links, said Michael Brooks, special agent with the FBI’s Cincinnati division.
Both the FBI and the Columbus Dispatch apparently forgot, or chose to ignore, that more than a year ago Columbus Somali community leader Nuradin Abdi had been convicted for his role in a Columbus al-Qaeda cell and for lying to authorities.
If past experience is any indicator, Dahir Gurey’s death fighting for Al-Shabaab will receive scant, if any, attention from local or state media.