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The Twin Cities have an ISIS problem

The_Twin_Cities_have_an-49fb221557e52eb5e18bc4ad1de62caa(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Members of the Minneapolis Somali community on May 12 waiting to enter the US courthouse in Minneapolis. A federal judge there ordered four Minnesota men accused of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group held pending trial.

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that a man from Minneapolis pleaded guilty to charges related to the Islamic State militant group.

But the man, whom prosecutors identified as 19-year-old Hanad Musse, was hardly the only Twin Cities resident to face charges in recent months over suspected support of the extremist group.

There have been a string of ISIS-related arrests over roughly the past year.

Why Minneapolis? Authorities say it’s linked to Minneapolis-St. Paul’s large Somali community.

According to The New York Times, estimates peg the local Somali population, which Minneapolis says is the largest in the US, at roughly 30,000 people.

Reports have described violent extremism as bubbling up within the local Somali community over the past few years, especially as a result of the 2006 conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia. At the time, much of the terrorism-recruitment issue centered on al-Shabab, the Somali-based group that would later become an Al Qaeda affiliate.

The office of Minnesota’s US attorney, Andrew Luger, said Wednesday that groups “like the Islamic State” had since exclusively targeted the local Somali community.

“Since Al Shabaab began recruiting Minnesota’s youth in 2006, the Twin Cities have been a focus of overseas terror recruiting by organizations like the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Luger’s office said in a press release. “This cycle of terror recruiting has exclusively targeted Minnesota’s Somali community.”

Indeed, Musse was one of six men from the region who faced charges in April accusing them of maintaining ties to ISIS. At the time, Luger directly said Minnesota had a “problem” with terror recruiting, which he described as decentralized and widespread.

“To be clear: We have a terror-recruiting problem in Minnesota. And this case demonstrates how difficult it is to put an end to recruiting here,” he said at a news conference hosted by the Minnesota US attorney’s office. “Parents and loved ones should know that there is not one master recruiter organizing in the Somali community locally. What this case shows is that the person radicalizing your son, your brother, your friend, may not be a stranger. It may be their best friend right here in town.”

And the federal government announced in February that it had indicted another 19-year-old, Hamza Naj Ahmed, on charges accusing him of trying to support the Islamic State. After Ahmed was detained, the Justice Department said Ahmed was “at least the fourth person from the Twin Cities charged as a result of an ongoing investigation into individuals who have traveled or are attempting to travel to Syria in order to join a foreign terrorist organization.”


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