FBI chief: Suicide bomber indoctrinated in Minnesota

  • Article by: STAFF and WIRE REPORTS
  • Updated: February 24, 2009 - 11:49 AM

Shirwa Ahmed, the first known suicide bomber with U.S. citizenship, apparently was indoctrinated in Minnesota, FBI Director Robert Mueller said.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said Monday in Washington, D.C., that a Somali-American man from Minnesota who was one of several suicide bombers in a terrorist attack in Somalia had apparently been indoctrinated into his extremist beliefs while living in Minneapolis.

Shirwa Ahmed, the first known suicide bomber with U.S. citizenship, immigrated with his family to the Minneapolis area in the mid-1990s, but returned to Somalia after he was recruited by a militant group, Mueller said.

The FBI director, who spoke at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, declined to be more specific, and did not mention the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, a Minneapolis mosque that some of the young men, including Ahmed, attended, and which some local Somali families have suggested is linked to their disappearance.

Late Monday, an Abubakar spokesman said again that the mosque had nothing to do with the men's disappearances.

Ahmed was driving a vehicle laden with explosives that blew up in northern Somalia in an attack that killed as many 30 people in October, according to news reports. His body was returned to Minnesota with the help of the FBI.

"It appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota," Mueller said.

Federal authorities have said that Ahmed was one of as many as two dozen young men of Somali descent who disappeared in the past two years from their homes in the Minneapolis area after being recruited by the Shabab, a militia suspected of having ties to Al-Qaida that has waged a war against the Somali government.

Some in Minneapolis' Somali community have said the young men disappeared after being radicalized at Abubakar. Representatives of the mosque have vigorously and repeatedly denied that the mosque has any connection to the men's disappearance or to any violent ideology.

Attorney Mahir Sherif, a consultant to the mosque, said in a telephone interview late Monday that Mueller "doesn't really know what's happened" and that he's "surprised that he would make such a comment."

The mosque is the largest in Minneapolis, Sherif said, drawing 10,000 to 15,000 people for the last fall's celebration marking the end of Ramadan.

"It's just frustrating to see people at high levels make such statements," he said. "It angers me they can just say this. This is affecting a lot of people. The mosque and Somalis have received a lot of hate messages because of this."

Two weeks ago, the mosque's director also rebuffed rumors.

"We have nothing to do with these kids who left," said Director Farhan Hurre. "I mean, we don't know the time they left, we don't why they left, we don't know who convinced them to go there."

This past weekend, the mosque held a seminar about how suicide is prohibited by Islam attended by hundreds of Somali youth, Sherif said.

"What more can this mosque do?" he said. "They've gone out publicly, and they've put it on paper, that there's nothing secret going on, there are not two separate messages going out. ... The Koran says you can't kill yourself. If you do, you're going straight to hell."

On Monday in Washington, Mueller suggested that Somali recruiting posed a serious issue for the FBI, which has sought the cooperation of the Somali community to try to understand whether the recruiting represents a threat.

The New York Times and Star Tribune staff writers Emily Johns and Richard Meryhew contributed to this report.

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