Somalia terror group says bomber was Minnesotan

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2011 - 12:36 AM

Al-Shabab says the suicide bomber who killed three others in Somalia was a 25-year-old man who left Minnesota two years ago.

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Dahir Jibreel, head of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, talked about Thursday’s news.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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Minnesota's Somali-American community is once again reeling at reports that a suicide bomber in Somalia may have been one of their own.

Al-Shabab, a terrorist group battling for control of the war-torn East African nation, is claiming that the bomber who killed himself and three others in a Monday attack in Mogadishu was Abdullahi Ahmed, 25, who left Minnesota two years ago.

Ahmed would become the third Somali-American -- and the second Minnesotan -- believed to have carried out a suicide bombing.

"It's really bad," said Saeed Fahia, head of the Confederation of Somali Community. "I never thought someone from here would be doing that again. Everyone's saying, 'Not again.'"

Since 2007, more than 20 young Somali-American men have left the Twin Cities to fight in the ongoing civil war.

Federal authorities believe they were radicalized and recruited by Al-Shabab, which the U.S. government claims has links to Al-Qaida. The exodus has put Minnesota at the epicenter of one of the largest counterterrorism probes since the 9/11 attacks.

FBI officials said Thursday they had not yet confirmed the bomber's identity and were sending a team to help determine who he was.

"We have agents overseas working with our partners overseas and will try to identify him," said Steve Warfield, an FBI spokesman. "He may or may not be from Minnesota."

In October 2008, when coordinated, multiple suicide blasts rocked several cities in Somalia, U.S. officials were called in to help investigate.

Sifting through the rubble, they were startled to find that one of the bombers was Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis. He was identified after investigators matched a fingerprint from "a single finger" recovered from a truck bomb site. It was the first time a U.S. citizen was known to carry out a suicide bombing.

At least five young local Somali-American men have died in their homeland, along with a Muslim convert from Minneapolis. In addition, a total of 19 people have been charged in Minnesota in connection with the travelers and alleged terror financing. Others have been charged in San Diego and St. Louis for allegedly funneling money to the terror group.

An audio clip making the rounds through the local Somali community on Thursday purported to contain an interview with the suicide bomber on Monday, the same day of the attack. In the 22-minute clip, the speaker briefly switches to English to make a direct appeal to his "brothers and sisters in the West."

"I would like to talk to my brothers and sisters out there in the West. Wherever you are, brothers, come. Come to jihad. I welcome you."

E.K. Wilson, another FBI spokesman, said the agency has heard the audio clip but cannot verify its authenticity.

In Al-Shabab's online statement, Abdullahi Ahmed is also referred to as "Al-Amriki," or the American. It's the same nickname given to Omar Hammami, of Alabama, star of many Al-Shabab recruiting videos.

Few in the local Somali community could place the Abdullahi Ahmed identified as the bomber, in part because the name is so common. Sources say he was also known by his nickname, Asadulaah, which means "Lion of God" in Arabic.

Some suggested Ahmed may be one of several missing Somali men believed to be off authorities' radar because relatives did not report them missing.

Dahir Jibreel, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, said judging from the audio clip, the speaker appears to be someone who was not raised in Somalia. He has an American accent, Jibreel said.

As word spreads about a possible second suicide bomber from Minnesota, Somali parents will once again be on edge, Fahia predicted.

"Parents are more likely to be vigilant and pay more attention what their kids are doing and who they're spending time with," he said.

The FBI investigation has focused international attention on the Somali community in Minnesota, believed to be the largest in the country.

FBI officials have had concerns all along that some of the men who left with their U.S. passports could return to commit an attack in this country. But there is no evidence to date that such a plot exists.

After the Minnesota investigation came to light, young men of Somali descent in other countries -- including Canada, England and Australia -- also were recruited to train and fight in their homeland.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a socialist dictator and then turned on each other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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