There's Something about the Somalis...
This should come as a surprise to no one, except perhaps Minnesotans. Or should I say, "Minnesotans"?
More men and boys from a Somali American community in Minneapolis have joined – or attempted to join – a foreign terrorist organization over the last 12 years than any other jurisdiction in the country.
FBI stats show 45 Somalis left to join the ranks of either the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency al-Shabab, or the Iraq- and Syria-based ISIS combined. And as of 2018, a dozen more had been arrested with the intention of leaving to support ISIS. Both numbers are far higher than those of alleged terrorist wannabes who left or attempted to leave the country from other areas in the country where Muslim refugees have been resettled.
In the case of the Somalis, it's no longer just the men. Early last year, a female was apprehended by authorities on charges of supporting providing material support to Al Qaeda and arson. So what has made the area such a hotbed for such activity?
You could ask any member of the armed forces or American intelligence agencies who've served in Somalia, but you might not get the answer you want to hear. Or you can watch the movie directed by Ridley Scott:
And what has been Rep. Ilhan Omar's record in addressing the issue - either before she was elected, or since?
The answers matter because federal authorities say they remain "highly concerned" about the terrorist connection with the Minneapolis Somalis - even though al-Shabab is struggling against the Somali government, and the so-called ISIS “caliphate” has crumbled under a sustained U.S.-led military campaign.
“We are very conscious that there may still be fertile ground for that, and that is could re-start at any time," one federal official told Fox News. "Based on historical experience, we had (an uptick) in 2007 and 2008 going for al-Shabab, then a lull. Then, as ISIS came back, we saw a whole bunch of people no longer headed for Somalia. They were headed for Iraq and Syria. That really caught us off-guard, we didn’t see that coming. It didn’t make sense to us. We understood why kids were going back to Somalia, but going to Syria was another issue.”
Not really. An Islamic radical is an Islamic radical, fighting not for a "country" but for the caliphate and the ummah. The fact that even today we have government officials who can't understand the difference is surely a cause for concern. These are people whose "faith" compels them to wage war on the West and those sufficiently radicalized will do it when and wherever they can -- as the number of "lone wolf" attacks in the U.S. and Europe can attest.
With by far the largest Somali American population in the United States - estimates of up to 100,000 - the insular ethnic community in Minnesota offers a rich recruiting ground.
"For over a decade, Islamist terror groups have been able to recruit from Minnesota. This is, in part, because Minnesota has a large Muslim population compared to other parts of the U.S,” said Robin Simcox, a terrorism and national security expert at The Heritage Foundation. “However, it is also because there have been small segments of the Somali community there that have struggled to integrate into the U.S. Al-Shabaab and ISIS have exploited this – upon religious, political cultural and identity issues to offer a compelling alternative to Western democracy.”
Josh Lipowsky, Senior Research Analyst at the Counter Extremism Project concurred the immigrant community in Minnesota has proven to be ripe for targeting in recent years by specifically playing into the card of being something of an outsider and that “society has shunned them.”
Society might be shunning them for a good reason. Then again, the Somalis seem to be doing a pretty good job of shunning Americans as well:
Local authorities contend it has been challenging for them to penetrate the Somali-American community in Minneapolis, who remain a unique immigrant population that hasn't actively assimilated with the neighboring township. In the neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside, for example, it's possible to go about day-to-day business without ever interacting with a non-Somali.
“You can buy your clothes at a Somalia mall. You can buy insurance at a Somalia insurance adjuster. You can buy real estate at a Somali real estate adjuster,” explained a U.S official. “I think that is pretty unique.”
And pretty dangerous as well. Especially now that they have their very own congresswoman.
As for Omar, she spoke up for a group of six Somalis arrested in 2015 for trying to cross into Mexico, as part of a plan to join ISIS in Syria. As the case went to trial the following year, the then-state representative wrote a letter to the trial judge requesting “compassion” - and lighter sentencing on behalf of one of the Minnesota men, who was facing 30 years jail time.
“Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment,” Omar wrote. “The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation.”
And how did that "rehabilitation" work out? Not well:
In November 2016, a Minnesota judge gave 21-year-old Abdullahi Yusuf an unprecedented opportunity to avoid jail time by undergoing experimental “ rehabilitation,” after having pled guilty in 2014 to purporting to join ISIS.
Six months later, he was back before the Judge having violated the terms of his probation – having been caught watching a news documentary about western ISIS fighters in the halfway house where he was confined. Nonetheless, Yusuf completed the carefully tailored “Heartland Democracy Education” program centered on studying literature, philosophy and writing poetry and in late 2017 was “integrated back into society” where he will be monitored for the next 20 years.
As real Minnesotans are discovering, no good deed goes unpunished.