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An unusual thing happened last week in the U.S. Attorneys' Office in Minneapolis. The family of a young man who had tried to join ISIS stood before dozens of community leaders with an unusual plea. Parents should turn in children they think might be radicalizing. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has our report.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: If you'd walked into this one session in the U.S. Attorneys' Office last week, you might be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled into a PTA meeting. Seated behind a long table were members of the Yusuf family - five people who had experienced ISIS in a way they'd never imagined.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Seated here on my right is Sadiik, whose the father of Abdullahi Yusuf.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible).
TEMPLE-RASTON: Abdullahi Yusuf the most famous Minnesota high school student you've never heard of. Two years ago, the FBI prevented him from boarding a flight from Minneapolis to Istanbul. He was on his way to join ISIS.
SADIIK YUSEF: (Through interpreter) Abdullahi - at the time, he was in high school.
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Abdullahi's father Sidiik speaking through an interpreter, and he vividly recalls when the FBI showed up at his door in May of 2014.
YUSEF: (Through interpreter) As a family, it was very difficult day. It was a shocking and horrifying day.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Given the turn of events, you'd think that Sidiik Yusuf would be angry about what happened, but he isn't. He says the FBI saved his boy's life.
YUSEF: (Through interpreter) A hundred percent for sure is if he was not stopped or arrested that day, he might have not lived today.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Sidiik Yusuf's attitude is unusual. As a general matter, the Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities are suspicious of the government's intentions. Some will tell you that the ISIS cases here are a result of FBI racial profiling and entrapment. They don't believe terrorists are recruiting Minnesota kids. Quintin Wiktorowicz runs a company called Affinis Labs, which, among other things, works to counter violent extremism in communities. And he says the use of family coming forward to talk shows courage.
QUINTIN WIKTOROWICZ: It's brave because communities like the Somali community in Minneapolis have a history of troubled and distrustful relationships with law enforcement. So to come out in that kind of meeting is a very unique experience, and there's a lot of possible lessons to other families that can be gleaned.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Counterterrorism officials now say the only way ISIS recruiters will ultimately be defeated is on the ground. And that may mean instead of rounding people up, authorities will need to focus more on prevention.
LISA MONACO: This has got to be about more than identifying potential prosecutions.
TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Lisa Monaco, President Obama's top terrorism adviser.
MONACO: If we don't have trusted relationships with communities, there's no way a family, a brother, a sister, a coach, a teacher are going to be able to say this kid looks like they're going down the wrong path. How do I help?
TEMPLE-RASTON: How do I help? Monaco says the Obama administration is working to fund local programs to give parents and kids options before they start to go down the wrong path. Sidiik Yusuf, for his part, considers himself lucky. Two have his son's friends who managed to leave Minnesota to join ISIS have died in fighting in Syria. His son is still alive.
YUSEF: (Through interpreter) Today he lives within the Twin Cities. I visit him. I help him. The whole family help him. Because he was stopped, because he was arrested - that was the reason that he's alive today.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Because he's arrested, his father said - that's why he's alive today. It's a compelling argument that counterterrorism officials hope resonates with other parents. Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, Minneapolis.
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