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Continued: Families fear missing men returned to Somalia

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 6, 2008 - 9:41 PM

Three Somali families with young men missing and believed to be in Somalia made a public plea for information about their missing relatives Saturday.

About a dozen people gathered at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis to talk about the three missing people, identified as Burhan Hassan, 17; Abdisalam Ali, 19, and Mohamoud Hassan, 18.

The men, who knew one another, have been missing since Nov. 4, said Abdirizak Bihi, an uncle of Burhan Hassan.

"We're sure there are other families afraid to come out and report missing children," Bihi said. He urged them to speak with authorities.

Rumors, fear and anger have pulsed through the Minneapolis Somali community in recent weeks as reports circulated about the disappearance of men ranging in age from 17 to early 20s. Some have suggested the men may have been recruited and sent to Somalia -- the land their relatives fled because of civil war -- to fight. Others have questioned the motives of those making such claims without hard proof.

Even the number of supposedly missing males has varied greatly over the past few weeks. Bihi said he is aware of up to 12 men from Minneapolis who haven't been seen for weeks.

E.K. Wilson, FBI spokesman, said the agency knows of young Somali men throughout the United States going to Somalia but wouldn't confirm specific cities. The FBI hasn't officially confirmed that there is an investigation into how and why the men are leaving.

Relatives said Saturday that they have received phone calls from their missing family members; each call's content was similar and each caller said he was safe and somewhere in Somalia.

The sudden departures confused and concerned family members. "We left a country still in trouble on many levels not expecting our kids to go back," said Hussein Samatar.

Ali and Mohamoud Hassan are students at the University of Minnesota and Burhan Hassan is a senior at Roosevelt High School, relatives said.

The boys frequented the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis, but Mahir Sherif, an attorney for the mosque, vehemently denied that the mosque knew anything about the trio's whereabouts.

"I can feel the pain that they [the families] are going through, but they were in a better position to know what their kids were doing than the mosque," Sherif said.

Bihi said that all the relatives want are some answers. He's confident that law enforcement agencies, which he wouldn't name, will be able to find criminal wrongdoing if it exists.

"We want our children back home," Bihi said. "We are not going to be silent."

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542

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