The United States government has clamped down on Somalis in America who aid, support and fight for al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab Islamist group. Young Somalis who have been apprehended are facing charges in the United States as the FBI continues its investigations.
“The sad reality is that the vibrant Somali community here in Minneapolis has lost many of its sons to fighting in Somalia. Those tempted to fight on behalf of or provide support to any designated terrorist group should know they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Attorney Todd Jones was quoted in a statement, as the new charges were announced.
According to reports, 14 people have now been charged as part of the long-running investigation. US federal prosecutors accuse the young men of aiding the militant group al-Shabab, widely known as having strong ties with al-Qaeda. The group has been leading an insurgency against Somali authorities.
Some of the Somali youths have taken part in a series of suicide bombings in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, according to authorities. In the last two years alone, over 20 people are thought to have left Minnesota to fight with Somali militants. Attention has focused on one group in particular: al-Shabab. The perculiarity of Al-Shabab, which means ‘the youth’, is its propaganda machine that carries a distinctly anti-American message. It is also clearly designed to appeal to young Muslim men who have grown up in the West.
Minneapolis is home to the largest group of Somali refugees in the country – more than 60,000 of them. According to BBC reports, the FBI has now launched significant terrorism investigations. But the investigation is not born out of a fear of what is happening in Somalia itself. Reports indicate that the investigations have more to do with the fear that young Somali men with American passports will return to the US to commit acts of terrorism. FBI agent EK Wilson admits “there’s no credible, specific threat that their intent is to return to the US to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil”, before adding “but we can’t rule it out”.
Somalia has had incessant conflicts since its central government collapsed in 1991. Al-Shaba rebels control much of the centre and south of the country, and have undermined the UN and U.S. backed interim government of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Since the Ethiopian intervention at the end of 2006 al-Shabab has grown in size, ambition, organization, and has grown increasingly radical. Their leaders have benefited from the bitter feelings generated by the Ethiopian intervention and are now probably the best organized force in Southern Somalia. They have expanded their control over southern Somalia since taking control of the strategic port of Kismaayo late last year. Baidoa, the town that until recently hosted the Transitional Federal Parliament, is for now also under their control.
The UN refugee Agency says that more than three million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid after millions were displaced from Mogadishu. Somalia has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Somalis rely on massive shipments of food aid to stay alive.