Somalis Leaving U.S. for Jihad

The funeral for Shirwa Ahmed last week in Burnsville, Minnesota, punctuated a growing national security threat metastasizing inside the U.S. -- one Homeland Security and law enforcement authorities have quickly taken note of. Ahmed, who killed himself in a suicide bombing attack in Somalia in October, is just one of up to 40 men from the Twin Cities area who have disappeared and are feared to have returned to their homeland for training with the al-Shabaab terrorist group to wage jihad.

The FBI is investigating similar disappearances in other major Somali communities in Columbus, OH, Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, and Seattle. There are even reports coming from Europe, recently from Denmark, of Somali men returning home to fight with al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations.

ABC News also reports that a Somali from Boston, Tarek Mehenna, a U.S. citizen, was arrested last month on his way to Somalia to wage jihad after being in contact with Daniel Maldonado, a Muslim convert currently in federal prison after pleading guilty to training at a Somali terror training camp after being captured in Kenya with a Somali terrorist cell.

Predictably, Somali leaders in many of these cities are claiming surprise and shock that anyone from their communities and mosques would be leaving the U.S. for jihad. But as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross explained in a Fox News report, there exists an active recruiting and transportation network in the U.S., including Minneapolis, for Somali-run terrorist training camps, many of which have recently reopened. In many instances, these same Somali leaders purporting ignorance and innocence for the local media are not only aware of these recruiting operations, but have actively participated in them.

A year ago I reported here at Pajamas Media ("Homeland Insecurity: Terrorist Fundraising in the Heartland") on a November 2007 jihadist fundraising and recruiting event held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Minneapolis, featuring two high-ranking representatives of the Eritrean-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS). The event was sponsored by local organizations. Homeland Security officials were warned in advance of the attendance of the two ARS officials, but no effort was made to prevent their entry into the U.S. They later conducted another event in the Washington, DC, area at the Days Inn in Falls Church, VA, which was also sponsored by Somali organizations in Virginia, Minnesota, and Ohio.

One U.S. Somali leader, Abdurahman Warsame, executive director of the Terror Free Somalia Foundation, expressed his amazement that the ARS officials would even be allowed to enter the country, let alone be able to openly conduct fundraising and recruiting for jihad:

This event was definitely intended to organize and mobilize the extreme elements of the Somali community here to support the armed struggle against the internationally recognized Somali government and oppose U.S. foreign policy. [ARS deputy chairman Zakaria Mahmoud Haji] Abdi was openly calling for jihad and directing supporters to use the underground hawala networks to circumvent U.S. controls to prevent terrorism financing overseas. These funds will be used to support the insurgency that is killing civilians, civil servants, and anyone who works for or with the government, in order to further weaken the country and open the doors for foreign terrorists to take control of the country. Why would this man be allowed in the U.S.?

A year later, however, the local media are scratching their heads in wonderment about what has been happening right under their noses. And the same Homeland Security and law enforcement officials who had taken a laissez faire approach to these fundraising and recruiting events are finally reexamining these activities. One Homeland Security official I spoke with last week even cited last year's Minneapolis event as one of the tipping points in radicalizing certain segments of the local Somali community.