Death Of Al-Shabab Leader Is ‘Great News’ For San Diego Somalis
Friday, September 5, 2014
Local Somalis concerned about the radicalization of American youth are relieved to hear the leader of al-Shabab is dead.
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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.
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