Somali Americans Suspect Minneapolis Mosques in Recruiting Youth

Somali Americans suspect mosque employees in recruiting youth.

ByABC News
March 11, 2009, 5:27 PM

March 11, 2009— -- Somali-Americans told lawmakers on Capitol Hill today that they were not aware of any current recruiting in the United States of young Somali men to engage in fighting overseas and said they suspected some employees at a mosque in Minneapolis had been behind just such a scheme.

Osman Ahmed, whose nephew Burhan Hassan left for Somalia in November 2008, said employees at two mosques in the Minneapolis area may have been behind the cases of some young men going to fight in Somalia.

"The management of those two mosques have a influence to the community," Ahmed told the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today. "And that's what we believe, after 2006, started recruiting the kids and also spreading their ideology of extremists."

At a hearing today in Washington, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., called the ongoing investigation the "most serious instance of homegrown terrorism in the United States."

ABC News has confirmed that federal investigators have recently issued grand jury subpoenas in the case.

The cases of young Somali-Americans going back to Somalia to fight with the designated terrorist group Al-Shabab have received increased attention from the FBI and DHS officials in the past few months. The trend gained attention after Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen, killed himself in an Oct. 28, 2008 suicide bombing.

"We believe he was recruited here in the United States and that others may have been radicalized," FBI Director Robert Mueller said last month.

Today, Abdirahman Mukhtar, who attended school with Shirwa Ahmed, said he was not aware of any active recruiting in the Somali community and told the committee, "I don't know how he ended up in that situation."

"When learning about Shirwa role as a suicide bomber, people were shocked and angry, because it goes against the Somali culture and it is also inherently anti-Islamic," Mukhtar said.

According to law enforcement and U.S. intelligence officials, as many as 20 young Somali men have traveled from the U.S. to Somalia, causing concern both among security officials and members of Somali communities.