Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice | Voter Guide

Death Of Al-Shabab Leader Is ‘Great News’ For San Diego Somalis

Photo by Courtesy of Mohamed Ahmed

Mohamed Ahmed left Somalia when he was 2 months old and came to City Heights at the age of 4. He's built a school in Somalia and says he plans to one day live there permanently.

Local Somalis concerned about the radicalization of American youth are relieved to hear the leader of al-Shabab is dead.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

The Pentagon confirmed Friday the death of Somali militant leader Ahmed Godane in a Monday air attack. Local Somalis say they're are glad to learn of the blow against al-Shabab.

All week conversations in City Heights coffee shops and African markets have swirled around whether Godane was actually dead. Friday's confirmation brought calm to those with family in Somalia – and to those worried about terrorists recruiting their American children, said Mohamed Ahmed.

"They don't recruit elders. They only manipulate the minds of youth. And since I work with young youth every single day, it's great news, not only for Somalis that live in Somalia, but for those who fear their children are being radicalized here locally," said Ahmed.

Ahmed works with Somali youth at home and in Somalia at a school he built with the group CURE Africa, or Communities United for Reviving East Africa. He said he doesn't know anyone personally who has been recruited, nor does he believe there is a specific threat to San Diego youth. But he said the recruitment of 23 Minnesota teens to al-Shabab since 2007 and recent news of a City Heights man fighting alongside ISIS in Syria remain in the back of people's minds.

Ahmed said the news the United States might have weakened al-Shabab by taking out a key leader helps to ease those fears. But he said the community must also work to engage young East African men in positive pursuits.

"You put yourself in the shoes of a young person who maybe has a criminal record, you're not able to get a job, you're not going to school, you live an unproductive life. When that recruiter approaches you and says, 'Hey listen, look what the American society has done to you. Come with us.' That person is far easier to recruit instead of a youth who's going to school, who has a 9-to-5," Ahmed said.

Darrell Foxworth, a special agent with the San Diego division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, said his field office has programs to reach out to the Somali community to "make them aware of what the FBI is doing and tell them how they can partner with us." Foxworth said the threat of locals being recruited into terrorist organizations is very real, pointing to one-time UC San Diego student Jehad Mostafa, who was indicted in 2009 for aiding al-Shabab and is one of the FBI's five most-wanted terrorists.

Al-Shabab is the jihadist group behind last year's Kenya mall attack, in which one San Diegan was injured. The al-Qaida-linked group has led a violent offensive to claim and wreak havoc on parts of Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.