Sadiyo Omar had no idea where her son had gone until the sobbing 20-year-old phoned her from Turkey on Saturday.
“Why, why are you there?” she asked.
Her son, Abdi Mohamed Nur, a graduate of Southwest High School in Minneapolis, gave no explanation. When she begged him to come home, she said, he cried some more.
Kyle Loven, spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis, declined to discuss Nur on Wednesday but said the agency has growing concerns that Somali-Americans from Minneapolis are traveling to Syria to fight the regime of President Bashar Assad.
“We believe that persons who have traveled overseas are traveling primarily to Turkey and once they are entering Turkey, they are crossing unfettered into Syria through the common border,” Loven said.
Interviewed in her south Minneapolis apartment on Wednesday, Nur’s mother appeared distraught. Omar said her family had called the FBI in hopes the authorities could help locate her son. “I want to find the people who told him to go to Turkey,” she said.
Nur’s sister told the Voice of America radio network this week that the FBI made some inquiries and told her that Nur was indeed in Turkey, where officials suspect he went in order to join the civil war in Syria.
A refugee family
Omar said that she and her son were born in Somalia and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp before the family came to the United States in 1980. She is now a U.S. citizen, as is her son.
She said her son graduated from Southwest High last June, which the Minneapolis School District confirmed. She said he was a “good student” and got A’s in math.
He also attended Normandale Community College in Bloomington and had said he wanted to become a lawyer. “He’s smart,” Omar said, speaking in Somali as a friend acted as an interpreter.
Nur shared Omar’s small apartment, and she said he was a responsible son, washing clothes and scrubbing the floors.
Nur left Minneapolis last Thursday at 5 p.m., she said, and at 6:40 p.m. his cellphone went dead. She kept trying to call him.
Omar said she then learned that Nur, with the help of a friend, had applied for a passport. Worried, the family called the FBI.
His sister told a reporter from Voice of America, the U.S.-sponsored radio network, that Nur had switched from one mosque to another recently and had begun to change over the past months. He sent a text to his sister last week, the day before he left for Turkey, saying he was going to join the jihad and told her not to worry, according to the radio report.
She declined to be interviewed for this article.
It is a violation of federal law for U.S. citizens not associated with the American military to participate in armed conflicts in foreign countries. In addition, the FBI is worried that Minneapolis Somali-Americans are joining organizations designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist groups, which is also a federal crime.
Loven said the FBI did not have details on what groups young men coming to Syria from Minneapolis might be joining.