The indictment of a fourth Minneapolis-area Somali man has the local community wondering whether the flow of Somalis returning to their homeland to fight with the terrorist al-Shabaab movement continues.
About a year ago, law enforcement officials began investigating the disappearance of about 20 young Somali men after one, Shirwa Ahmed became the first known American to carry out a suicide bombing attack. He allegedly drove a truck bomb into a government compound in Mogadishu. Two other men are believed to have been shot and killed in Somalia this past summer.
Since then, three men have pled guilty to charges they provided material support to al-Shabaab or lied about their involvement with the group.
On Tuesday, Abdow Abdow was charged with providing false statements to federal investigators after he was questioned about a road trip. Abdow was pulled over by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Oct. 6. He claimed to have only one passenger with him, when there really were four passengers. Two of the travelers are believed to have crossed into Mexico, where they may have boarded a flight to Mexico City. Their ultimate destination remains a mystery, but the community response points to common sense.
Minnesota Public Radio quoted Minneapolis attorney Stephen Smith saying "it's not unrealistic to at least wonder whether the individuals that were allegedly with Mr. Abdow intended to leave this country, ultimately with the intent of heading to Somalia."
While the federal investigation has been in the news for nearly a year, and several of the young men have been killed, community officials say Abdow's case raises disturbing questions whether the flow of young Somalis to the battle zone has stopped.
"The numbers now are probably much higher than 20. Definitely," Omar Jamal director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
It's not clear whether Abdow will face additional charges. Najibullah Zazi, charged with plotting terrorist attacks in New York, originally was charged with providing false statements to law enforcement.