MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s well documented that foreign terror groups have been working to bring in new recruits. In fact, more than two-dozen young Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities have already been lured to training camps overseas, mostly in Somalia.
Now, there’s growing concern over a propaganda video just released that’s trying to attract more young men to do the same.
The FBI believes Al-Shabaab is responsible for producing and releasing a 40-minute video that follows three Twin Cities men on the path to martyrdom.
For the past seven years, federal agents have been investigating and prosecuting Minnesota’s so-called “terror pipeline.”
With the country’s largest population of Somali-Americans, the Twin Cities has been fighting the recruitment of young men into Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda training camps overseas. Once trained, they engage in Jihad against the ruling factions in war-torn Somalia.
“It is troubling, because it uses the medium of video to romanticize what it is to go to Somalia and fight,” said the FBI’s Kyle Loven. “And it’s appealing, unfortunately, to some young men here in Minneapolis.”
On Tuesday, Al-Shabaab sent out a Tweet saying it would document its Minnesota Martyrs.
“I was surprised when I saw the ,” said local Somali journalist, Wiil Waal.
But after seeing the propaganda video, Waal isn’t so sure that Al-Shabaab is responsible. He says it appears too highly produced to have come from Somalia. Waal suspects others may have had a hand it the video.
Early Thursday morning, a video titled “Minnesota’s Martyrs: The Path to Paradise” hit the internet.
The 40-minute video follows three young men — Dahir Gure, Muhammad Al Amriki and Mohamud Hassan — they leave the Twin Cities to join the training camps in Somalia. Hassan was an engineering student at the University of Minnesota. Amriki was a graduate of Roosevelt High School.
From their initial reasons to interviews on the battlefield, the men each pause to record their appeals for others back in Minnesota to join Jihad.
In the video, Gure is heard saying, “This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us!”
But the video is both violent and extremely graphic: it follows each man to his death or “shakada.”
Local Somali leader Abdirizak Bihi lost his nephew, Omar Farah, to the Al-Shabaab recruitment and is outspoken critic and community activist. He works to deter other Somali boys and young men from falling prey to group’s violent mission.
“We and Al-Shabaab have one thing in common: we are competing for the hearts and minds of the young people,” Bihi said.
He added that his challenge remains one of getting community support and financial help for a cause that many Minnesotans clearly don’t understand — or see as a priority.
“So long as we continue to do what we are doing and get support and work together, I think these videos will not have an impact,” Bihi said.
Loven said the government can’t block the video on the internet out of First Amendment concerns.
Although the video appeared twice on YouTube, it lasted only briefly. The website blocked it from further viewing citing its violent content.
Sentences continue in Minn. Somali terror case
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two men who left Minnesota to join al-Shabab in Somalia were sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison, while a man they characterized as a local leader in efforts to recruit them to the terrorist group was sentenced to 12 years.
They were among six men sentenced this week for their roles in the government’s long-running investigation into the travels of more than 20 young men who left Minnesota to join the al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia — a phenomenon that has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters into a foreign terrorist group.
Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 29, and Salah Osman Ahmed, 30, both left Minnesota and traveled to Somalia in 2007. They both spent about a week in an al-Shabab training camp before they said they realized what the group was all about and escaped.
The government recommended they receive less than the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison because they cooperated. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis went even lower than prosecutors recommended, sentencing them to three years.
The timing of their departure from al-Shabab was not lost on Davis, who a day earlier gave a 10-year sentence to a man who stayed in the camp longer and participated in an ambush.
“I’m going to take a chance on you,” Davis told Isse. “You devised a scheme to get away. That told me a lot about you. … If you had been involved in the ambush, you’d be doing a lot of time.
“You’ve got a lot to live up to now,” the judge added. “If I’m wrong about you, it’s on my head.”
As part of their cooperation, Isse and Ahmed testified in the recent trial of another defendant. In that trial, they characterized Omer Abdi Mohamed as a leader in recruitment efforts, saying he used the Quran to convince them they were doing the right thing.
Davis sentenced Mohamed to 12 years on Tuesday, without providing a reason. But after hearing that witness testimony about Mohamed last October, and learning that Mohamed was volunteering at a school, Davis called Mohamed “a danger to the community.”In his guilty plea in 2011, Mohamed admitted he attended secret meetings and helped recruits get plane tickets — even providing a false itinerary for one traveler — but he never traveled to Somalia himself. He faced a maximum of 15 years, but the government recommended slightly less because he cooperated.