Farah Mohamed Beledi left a troubled past in Minnesota before heading to Somalia.
The photo of a stern-looking young man that appeared in a local Somali newspaper is the only one that Mumina Roba has of her son. There won't be any more.
On Tuesday, she stared at the picture of Farah Mohamed Beledi and nodded when asked whether he was her boy.
Beledi's journey from St. Paul high school student to presumed suicide bomber has left Roba heartbroken and without answers to explain his death or previous incarnations as a gang member, prison inmate, religious zealot or indicted terrorism suspect.
"Since he came out of jail, we've never seen him," Roba said through a translator.
She had heard that he was in Minneapolis and then later Nairobi. "Then we heard he was in Somalia," she said.
"The second thing we heard is that he was dead."
Last week, Al-Shabab, a terrorist group battling for control of war-ravaged Somalia, identified the bomber who killed himself and three others in the May 30 attack in Mogadishu as Abdullahi Ahmed, 25, of Minnesota.
But local community members soon realized the man was really Beledi, one of at least 20 young Minnesotans who have gone to Somalia to fight in the civil war. At least six have died, and Minneapolis has become the focus of one of the nation's largest counterterrorism efforts.
Beledi is believed to have left Minnesota just before U.S. officials indicted him along with seven others on terrorism-related charges in November 2009. He was traveling, community members said, without documents.
FBI officials have yet to confirm the bomber's identity, pending results of identification work by U.S. investigators overseas. "We're still waiting for an ID," said special agent Steve Warfield, a spokesman for the FBI's Minneapolis office, adding that he does not know how long that will take.
Investigators may use fingerprints, DNA testing or some other means to try to confirm the man's name, Warfield said, adding that there is no guarantee a positive identification will be made.
Minnesota court records show Beledi had a long criminal record when he was younger, with felony convictions for assault, possession of a controlled substance, possessing a pistol without a permit and other serious offenses that took him on a path away from his family here.
Beledi also had several nicknames, including "Bloody," "Asadullah," and "Ghetto," according to the federal indictment.
Beledi's family in Minnesota reportedly held a funeral service for him last week. And those who knew his voice recognized it on an audio clip of an interview reportedly with the suicide bomber. The clip was released last week.
In the interview, the speaker invites his "brothers living in the West" to come to Somalia and "die like lions."
In Al-Shabab's statement, the bomber is also referred to as "Al-Amriki," or the American.
An online magazine, Mashriq Quarterly, recently published graphic photos of a man resembling Beledi and appearing to have suffered fatal injuries, who they said was involved in the attack.
The man is wearing a camouflage jacket, resembling a soldier's uniform. News reports from Somalia describe the attackers as disguising themselves by dressing up like soldiers.
The photos also reveal the arm of a person who is wearing blue latex gloves and appears to be examining the deceased man's hands.
Roba said on Tuesday that she believes if her son was involved in the suicide attack, he was forced to participate.
Other sources who knew Beledi say he was a troublemaker when he was young and was in a gang called "Deep in the Game," but they said he turned his life around when he got out of jail and became more religious.
In the spring of 2009, sources say, he had volunteered to help drive students from Rochester to an event in the Twin Cities honoring Somali-American high school graduates.
But in October of that year, he was among a group who rented a car to travel to Mexico and were stopped by a Nevada trooper en route.
Beledi is believed to have made it across the border, and eventually to Kenya and then Somalia.
Federal authorities believe the Minnesotans who went to Somalia were radicalized and recruited by Al-Shabab, which the U.S. government claims has links to Al-Qaida.
At least five young local Somali-American men have died in their homeland, including Shirwa Ahmed, 26, of Minneapolis, who was the first American suicide bomber in Somalia. A Muslim convert from Minneapolis also reportedly died.
In addition, a total of 19 people have been charged in Minnesota in connection with alleged terror financing. Others have been charged in San Diego and St. Louis.
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488