Family Mourns After Somali-American Found Dead Early this year, a young Somali-American disappeared from his home in Minneapolis. Burhan Hassan, 17, had gone to Africa to join a Somali militia group called al-Shabab. His family got news last week that he had been killed in Mogadishu.
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Family Mourns After Somali-American Found Dead

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Family Mourns After Somali-American Found Dead

Family Mourns After Somali-American Found Dead

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This morning, we can update you on the story of a man's who's been missing for months. Early this year, we told you about this young Somali-American who disappeared from his home in Minneapolis. His name: Burhan Hassan. At age 17, he flew to Africa to join a Somali militia group called al-Shabab.

Mr. ABDI RIZAK BIHI: My sister called me and said Burhan's missing.

INSKEEP: That was his uncle. When we spoke to the uncle at the beginning of the year, he was still searching for his nephew in Somalia, hoping to convince him to come home. Last week, he heard Burhan Hassan had been killed in Mogadishu. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has more.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: This time a year ago, Burhan Hassan was a junior at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. He'd been taking advanced courses and was hoping to go to medical school.

Mr. HUSSEIN SAMATAR: He is extremely bright student, and very nice towards his mom.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Hussein Samatar. He's Burhan's other uncle. We spoke to him earlier this year.

Mr. SAMATAR: He's been the youngest of the family, and he had an awesome relationship with - sometimes just he would call even during the school day. He would take a break and call his mom and say within four hours every time, class going well, and I will see you soon.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And then, out of the blue last November, Burhan just disappeared. According to the FBI, he and six of his friends were recruited by people linked to the Somali militia al-Shabab. The group is though to have ties to al-Qaida and is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

The fact that al-Shabab set its sights on the twin cities isn't surprising. Minneapolis-St. Paul is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. Some 70,000 live in Minnesota. In the past two years, officials say at least two dozen of its young Somalis have disappeared and traveled to Somalia to fight. Most have not returned.

The deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Andrew Liepman, spoke about the missing young men earlier this year.

Mr. ANDREW LIEPMAN (Deputy Director, National Counterterrorism Center): We do worry that there's a potential that these individuals could be indoctrinated by al-Qaida while they're in Somalia and then return to the United States with the intention to conduct attacks.

TEMPLE-RASTON: For months, Burhan's family had been working quietly behind the scenes to get him back to Minneapolis. A couple of weeks ago, during a cell phone call to his mother, he reluctantly agreed to leave Somalia and come home. Family members were supposed to meet him in Nairobi and take him to the U.S. embassy.

Mr. BIHI: One of those people called us - called my sister on Friday morning and notified her that Burhan is dead.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Burhan's uncle, Abdi Rizak Bihi. He says he thinks his nephew was killed because he intended to leave Somalia and could identify the people who recruited him in Minneapolis and even provide information on al-Shabab. Bihi says that the people who attended his nephew's funeral in Mogadishu saw his body and claimed Burhan died from a single gunshot to the head.

Burhan is the second Somali-American from Minneapolis to die over there. The other was a suicide bomber who drove a car full of explosives into a crowd last October.

Mr. BIHI: And we're grateful that it's not worse.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That he didn't hurt anyone else?

Mr. BIHI: Yes. We were really worried about that, that he would be used to hurt other innocent Somalis who are suffering already.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Burhan's Uncle Bihi has asked the FBI to help him bring his nephew's body home.

Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.

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