NPR logo FBI Makes Another Arrest In Missing Somalis Case

FBI Makes Another Arrest In Missing Somalis Case

The FBI has made another arrest in its yearlong investigation into a rash of disappearances from the Somali community in Minnesota.

A 26-year-old medical technician from St. Paul was arrested on Friday and charged with making false statements to FBI officials. His arrest had been under seal until Tuesday, when he appeared in a St. Paul federal court. He was indicted Wednesday on the charges.

An FBI spokesman said that Abdow Abdow's arrest was related to the ongoing investigation into the two dozen Somali youths who have left the United States and traveled to Somalia to join a militia there called al-Shabab.

The criminal complaint against Abdow says he lied about driving a handful of Somali-Americans from Minneapolis across the country on Oct. 6. One of the young men in the car had his passport and $4,000 in cash. Two other young men who were passengers in Abdow's car tried to leave the United States through Mexico two days later.

When Abdow was asked about his fellow travelers, he denied they were in the car, the FBI says. When interviewed at work, Abdow allegedly told the FBI, "I'm talking too much." Then, when he finally admitted having a handful of passengers in his car, he added, "Whatever those guys are into, I'm not."

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The FBI would not say whether the men in the car were among those under investigation or whether they intended to travel to Somalia.

U.S. intelligence officials have been following the case out of concern that the Somalis leaving Minneapolis are being funneled to al-Shabab through what might be America's first jihadi pipeline. Think of the potential pipeline as an underground railroad for jihadists — an intricate but informal network of militants who help their brothers in arms not only travel to terrorist training camps but also return home. The return trip to America is what worries U.S. intelligence. They envision a raft of young men training for jihad and slipping back into the U.S. to launch an attack.

Al-Shabab, a militia group with links to al-Qaida, is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. For almost two years, it has been recruiting young Somali men from cities such as Minneapolis, Cleveland, Boston and San Diego, putting them on the front lines of Somalia's civil war. One of those recruits, a young Minneapolis man named Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in a suicide bombing last October. Two of the men who were traveling with Abdow earlier this month stopped at the U.S. border not far from San Diego.

One agent says this has been one of the biggest domestic terrorism investigations in this country since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. So far, five of the young Minnesotans who have traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabab have been killed in the fighting there.