Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Terrorist Recruitment Center Denies Link To Missing Somali Men

The leaders of a south Minneapolis mosque on Tuesday renewed their denials that the mosque is connected to the disappearance of young Somali men from Minnesota. For the second time in recent weeks, the leaders of the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque said they have been unfairly accused. Some Somali families have said they're concerned their teenage sons or nephews may have been brainwashed to return to Somalia to fight in that country's civil war. Abdirashid Abdi, a board member and former executive director of the mosque, said officials there "share the pain and grief that the families of the youth who went to Somalia are experiencing." But he added: "It is unfortunate that some individuals in the Somali community unfairly accused Abubakar Center to have links to the disappearance of the Somali young men. We strongly deny these unsubstantiated allegations. Abubakar Center didn't recruit, finance or otherwise facilitate in any way, shape or form the travel of these youth." The trigger for Tuesday's news conference was a report in Sunday's Star Tribune on the disappearance six months ago of Mustafa Ali, an 18-year-old St. Paul man who had been active in the mosque.Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Somali communities in the U.S. Another man, Shirwa Ahmed, disappeared from Minneapolis last October and is believed to have killed himself in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia, according to federal officials. They also believe he was a recruiter in the Twin Cities for a terrorist network. FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson has said the agency is aware of people from throughout the U.S. and Minneapolis traveling to Somali to "potentially fight for terrorist groups." But Wilson would neither confirm nor deny that the FBI and the Justice Department were investigating. Tuesday's news conference at the mosque included testimonials from several speakers, including Farah Mahamud, a young man from Minneapolis who said the center helped him turn his life around. "It means everything to me," Mahamud said. "It helped me change my life for the better." Kashif Saroya, outreach director for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, called on law enforcement to investigate and resolve the appearances as soon as possible. The mosque plans to hold an open house soon. Abdi, the board member, said he wants people to know that Somalis are grateful to be citizens in Minnesota. "This is our new home," he said.