|WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, heard testimony Wednesday from federal intelligence officers and members of the Somali American community about the radicalization and recruitment of young Somali American men in Minneapolis by a Somali terrorist organization.
The hearing, entitled Violent Islamist Extremism: Al-Shabaab Recruitment in America, represents the eighth hearing the Committee has held in the past two and a half years on the subject of violent Islamist radicalization and homegrown terrorism.
“This is an unsettling story of young Somali American men being radicalized and recruited in Minneapolis and sent to Somalia for training in terrorism that will be carried out there or perhaps back here in the U.S.,” Lieberman said. “This is probably the most significant case of homegrown American terrorism that we have found yet. I look forward to the outcome of an ongoing FBI investigation to determine how these young Americans were radicalized and recruited. And we must work with the Somali American community, the Muslim American community, and American law enforcers to stop the spread of this dangerous development for our homeland security.”
Said Collins: “The recent reports of young Somali American men in Minnesota leaving the United States to travel to Somalia and joining – and even fighting for – a terrorist organization mark a disturbing new development. Radicalized individuals, trained in terrorist tactics and in possession of American passports, can pose a threat to the security of the United States. As our witnesses made clear, finding the individuals here in the United States who facilitated this radicalization and protecting other young Americans from their influence will require the combined efforts of patriotic members of the Somali American community, state and local law enforcement, and U.S. law enforcement and intelligence.”
Intelligence officials noted that over the past two years, al-Shabaab has radicalized and recruited a dozen or more young Somali men to return to Somalia for training and fighting. The men vanished without warning from their homes and had no means to pay for expensive airfare to Somalia.
Shirwa Ahmed, 27, a naturalized Somali-American went to Somalia in 2007 and became a suicide bomber, joining with a terrorist team that last October exploded five car bombs in two Somali cities, killing at least 30 people, including U.N. aid workers. Burhan Hassan, 17, whose uncle testified Wednesday, disappeared from his home on Election Day last year without a word to his family. An “A” student, Hassan, who had planned to become a doctor or a lawyer, wound up in Somalia.
“Many of these young men are travelling on United States’ passports,” Lieberman pointed out. “I am concerned that they could return to the U.S. at any time – fully radicalized and trained in the tactics of terror – to launch attacks here.”
Hearing witnesses were: J. Philip Mudd, Associate Executive Assistant Director, National Security Branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice; Andrew M. Liepman, Deputy Director for Intelligence, National Counterterrorism Center; Ken Menkhaus, Ph.D. , Professor of Political Science, Davidson College; Abdirahman Mukhtar, a youth program manager at the Brian Coyle Center – the epicenter of Somali youth and community activities in Minneapolis – and a schoolmate of suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed; and Osman Ahmed, an uncle of Burhan Hassan.