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Indictments Stir Fear, Relief For Somali-Americans

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Indictments Stir Fear, Relief For Somali-Americans

Indictments Stir Fear, Relief For Somali-Americans

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We've been following the disappearance of more than two dozen young Somali-Americans from Minneapolis. We began reporting on them on this program last January. The FBI says the young men were recruited in the U.S. and ended up in Somalia, where they're fighting alongside a terrorist group called al-Shabab.

The FBI has been investigating for almost a year. This week the first indictments in the case were unsealed. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is here with the latest.

Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So have they found the people who are behind the disappearance of these young men?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the short answer is no, not quite yet. I mean, a grand jury indicted two men, a man named Abdifatah Isse and Salah Ahmed. And they're both Somali Americans in their 20s and they're both charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy.

But the indictment is only three pages long and it's really vague. And the terrorist organization they're supposed to be helping is never mentioned by name. What the conspiracy was exactly is also never spelled out. And although there's this vague reference to a flight one of the two men took from Minneapolis to Somalia, there are not a lot of clues there.

Now, officials have told NPR that this is just the first in a series of indictments to come out of the Minneapolis grand jury regarding this case. So what's really important here is that more arrests are expected.

MONTAGNE: And how is the Somali American community in Minneapolis reacting to all of this?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, this is what's really interesting. In cases like this that I've covered in the past, where someone from a community is linked to terrorism, usually the community rushes to their defense. You know, they say the FBI's accused the wrong people or that they're being scapegoated. And that's not happening this time. You aren't hearing that at all in the Somali American community in Minneapolis.

Now, I spoke to one of the community leaders there - a man named Abdirizak Bihi - about the indictments. And here's what he said.

Mr. ABDIRIZAK BIHI (Community Leader): Everybody's talking about it. And I'm seeing support for the law enforcement. I'm seeing support for the indictments. Also we are seeing tremendous support for the families.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You know, he actually says that among the community after these indictments there's this tremendous sense of relief, 'cause no one is quite certain who's recruiting their sons and they want answers. And this seems to be the beginning of it.

Now, there's been another development that's a bit gloomier. And that is that as fighting has stepped up in Somalia, there's word that two more of the young men from Minneapolis have been killed. And parents in the community are bracing for more of that kind of news.

MONTAGNE: And you know, what happened there?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, over the weekend two of the missing boys, Jamal Bana and Zarkaria Maruf, were killed during clashes between al-Shabab and government forces in Mogadishu.

Now, Bana's mother first learned her son was dead by seeing a picture of him on the Internet. And Maruf's mother received a phone call from Somalia. And then just yesterday both families apparently received emails from someone who said they were representing al-Shabab. That's the Somali terrorist group. And the emails said that the young men had died as martyrs and were good Muslims. And the writer told parents not to be sad because their sons were now in paradise.

Bihi, this community leader I spoke to, says the latest deaths have been really hard.

Mr. BIHI: Especially for the mom of Jamal Bana. It's also very devastating for the whole community. Those two deaths are making families who are missing the recruited kids — it's making them less optimistic.

TEMPLE-RASTON: I mean, the community is really eager for the FBI to arrest whoever is recruiting their kids, and they're really worried if those arrests don't happen, more of their sons will go missing.

MONTAGNE: Dina, thanks very much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston.

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