A second Somali man from Minneapolis has entered a guilty plea in connection to a series of young men who are believed to have left Minnesota to join the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia.
Salah Osman Ahmed entered a guilty plea in federal court Tuesday in which he admitted traveling to Somalia in December 2007 to fight Ethiopians. Ahmed acknowledged attending meetings in Minneapolis beginning in October 2007 during which he and others were persuaded to return to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab. During his time in Somalia Ahmed helped build a training camp and learned how to fire an AK-47.
The plea is similar to one entered in April by co-defendant Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, who also admitted to training with al-Shabab, building a terrorist training camp, and learning to fire weapons.
Concerns that the investigation into missing Somali men in the Minneapolis area involved religious profiling were among the concerns listed in a letter uncovered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism Tuesday from seven House Democrats. The representatives asked Attorney General Eric Holder to meet with nine Islamist groups to hear their grievances.
The FBI investigations "raise legitimate questions about due process, justice, and equal treatment under the law," the seven House Democrats wrote. If their pleas are any indication, Isse and Ahmed don't share those concerns. Neither do some members of the Somali-Muslim community in Minneapolis.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the groups Holder is urged to meet, has launched a campaign to make the Minnesota community wary of religious profiling in the FBI investigation and has even urged those approached by the FBI in Minnesota not to meet with the FBI without legal counsel present. Jessica Zikiri, CAIR-Minnesota's communications director told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the campaign is meant to "ensure that civil rights are protected."
Interestingly, CAIR's campaign has triggered a backlash from within the Minnesota Somali community. Family members of the youth who have traveled overseas to Somalia accuse CAIR of hindering the FBI investigation surrounding their missing family members. At least three of these missing youths have been reported as being killed in Somali over the past few months. In response to these deaths family members have rallied against CAIR in several protests.
In June, the Somali community of Minneapolis protested outside of a CAIR Minnesota event. The protesters were the friends and family of Burhan Hassan, one of the Minneapolis youth killed in Somalia. The protesters believed that an unhampered FBI investigation could lead to answers about their missing relative and protect Somali youth.
The rally outside of the CAIR event included about 50 people who held signs and chanted "CAIR out! Doublespeak out!"
Ifrah Hassan, Burhan's mother's cousin, held a small child during the protest and told reporters, "I don't want my son, when he's 18 years old, out of nowhere going someplace else." She added, "We need to find out who did this."
One of Hassan's relatives, Osman Ahmed, heavily criticized CAIR during the rally, saying that CAIR is "supporting the groups we suspect of recruiting our kids." "We refuse to be silent," he said. Ahmed also added that he believed that CAIR aligned itself too closely with mosques where some believe the missing boys may have been convinced to leave.
Ahmed has testified before the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security Committee in Washington D.C. earlier, in March of 2009. During his testimony he accused the Minneapolis based Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, which has worked closely with CAIR, of recruiting children to join Al-Shabab.
The family protested again on Independence Day, July 4, 2009. During the protest, flyers were handed out containing a strong statement of condemnation for CAIR:
"CAIR's provocative and dangerous actions will not be tolerated and have led many in the Somali American community to believe that they are intentionally shielding from prosecution members of a network which has been providing material support to a terrorist group, in this case funds and the trafficking of American youths to Al-Shabaab."
While the House Democrats and the Hamas-linked CAIR continue to complain about alleged violations of civil rights, the FBI's investigation continues to unfold, providing more answers to questions surrounding the disappearances of Minnesota Somali youth.