Thursday, June 19, 2014
By: Ethan Nelson , The Minnesota Daily
Via TC Daily Planet
Agents from the Minneapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are collecting information from Cedar-Riverside residents as part of an ongoing investigation spurred by recent allegations of American citizens joining Syrian rebels overseas.
Rumors that neighborhood residents are illegally fighting in conflict overseas prompted agents from the FBI to ramp up their already-existing presence in the neighborhood earlier this month, said Minneapolis FBI spokesman Kyle Loven.
He said agents are actively interviewing residents and informing them about the allegations, while also trying to figure out if anyone in the community is involved.
вЂњWeвЂ™re looking for information that would indicate that someone intends to travel to a country where thereвЂ™s armed conflict,вЂќ Loven said.
Since Ethiopian military forces invaded Somalia in 2006, Loven said at least 22 Somali immigrants вЂ” who were mostly young men вЂ” have left Minnesota to join al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. He said the FBI is continuing investigations into those incidents.
вЂњOur information and history here in Minneapolis indicates that these recruitment efforts are being directed primarily at young people,вЂќ Loven said.
Citizens are allegedly joining rebel forces in going against Syrian president Bashar al-AssadвЂ™s government.
The Minneapolis FBI kicked off its investigation into potential Syrian ties in the Cedar-Riverside area earlier this month when two FBI agents met with community members at the Brian Coyle Center. Loven said the FBI will continue to work with city and state Somali groups in an attempt to gain a better understanding of what might be attracting young men to foreign countries.
вЂњOur liaison вЂ¦ met with leaders to determine as many facts as they could,вЂќ Loven said.
The meeting followed a notice posted on the Minneapolis FBIвЂ™s website, which was shortly after the first death of an American suicide bomber acting on behalf of a militant group in Syria, late last month.
The FBIвЂ™s Minneapolis site called for anyone who knows someone who is вЂњplanning to and/or has traveled to a foreign country for armed combat or who is being recruited for such activitiesвЂќ to contact its office.
So far, the Minneapolis division is the only FBI office in the country to post such a notice online.
A large part of the FBIвЂ™s outreach will be identifying вЂњat-riskвЂќ youth, Loven said, adding that the agencyвЂ™s presence in Cedar-Riverside will work to prevent future recruitment.
Mohamed Farah, executive director of Ka Joog, a Minnesota Somali youth group, said al-ShabaabвЂ™s recruitment efforts are present in the Somali community вЂњ24/7.вЂќ
Recent recruitment efforts, Farah said, are вЂњpart twoвЂќ of 2007вЂ™s initial wave.
Loven said the FBI isnвЂ™t investigating anyone who has left for war zones to provide humanitarian services.
Jaylani Hussein, a board member on MinnesotaвЂ™s American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa, traveled to his birthplace in Somalia in 2008 to distribute food during a famine and help establish schools there.
вЂњObviously I was aware of people having gone to fight in Somalia,вЂќ he said. вЂњBut there were some people who profiled me and thought I was suspicious for having gone to Somalia.вЂќ
Hussein said those who have returned to Somalia for peaceful reasons vastly outnumber those who go for violent reasons.
Farah said he disagrees with efforts that focus too heavily on military intervention in attempt to combat terrorism instead of outreach at home.
вЂњWe tend to forget to engage the community here,вЂќ he said. вЂњThis is a two-way street.вЂќ