UPDATE: The FBI's Minneapolis Office has confirmed the identity of one of two suicide bombers involved in the attack on a Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG)military checkpoint in Mogadishu on May 30th as Farah Mohamed Beledi.
A Somali-American already on the radar of federal authorities for ties to the Somali terror group al-Shabaab has been identified as the bomber who tried to detonate himself in Mogadishu last week, Minnesota Public Radio's Laura Yuen reports.
The man, described as 27-year-old Farah Mohamed Beledi, was identified by his step-mother, Mumina Roba, after she was shown an image from the scene of the terrorist attack that took the lives of two African Union (AU) peacekeepers and one government soldier.
The perpetrator of last Monday's attack was previously identified as 25-year-old Abdullahi Ahmed, also formerly of Minnesota, after al-Shabaab attributed the attack to him online. The group claimed that Ahmed came to Somalia from the U.S. in 2009, and that he wanted to wage the attack to avenge abuses by Christians in Muslim countries. No mention was made of Beledi in the initial reporting.
Today's report adds that AU officials believe last week's attack may have involved two people: one who "was killed before he could activate his bombs," and another who successfully detonated. It has yet to be confirmed by U.S. officials, but the bomber who failed to detonate was probably the man who was visible in pictures—and it was likely Beledi. The other man—not visible in pictures—was most likely Ahmed.
If this narrative proves to be true, it would be the first time that two Somali-Americans acted together to launch an attack on behalf of the al-Qaida-tied Somali group.
According to authorities, Farah Beledi is among more than 20 men who left Minnesota in recent years to fight for al-Shabaab. He was indicted in absentia in July 2010 for "terrorism offenses" after leaving the United States to fight with al-Shabaab and is identified by a number of evocative aliases, including "Bloody" and "Ghetto."
It is likely that Beledi's nicknames had something to do with his violent past. "[C]ourt records show Beledi pleaded guilty in 2007 to stabbing a man in the neck and his side during a soccer game at Central High School in St. Paul," Yuen notes in her report. "He served more than a year in prison, and was on supervised release until May 2009…"
After being released from prison, Beledi fell on hard times after growing increasingly estranged from his family. He began to gravitate more toward his Islamic faith, and became a regular attendee at Minneapolis' Abubaker As-Saddique mosque.
The mosque, formerly known as the Shafi'e Mosque, is thought by some local area Muslims to be playing a direct role in the radicalization of Minnesota Somali youth and the sudden increase of Minnesota-bred al-Shabaab jihadists
In an ironic twist of fate, Beledi was recorded in February 2009 defending the very mosque that may have ultimately played a role in his own radicalization from charges that it was radicalizing area youth.
"Beledi told the crowd that the mosque helped him break free of his criminal past, and gave him a new purpose in life," Yuen writes. "He defended the mosque from allegations from some community members that officials there brainwashed the young men."
"[T]he Abubakar center cannot be blamed for the missing youth (and) what they did," Farah Beledi is quoted as having said at the time.
What remains to be seen is whether the mosque did, in fact, play a role in Beledi's radicalization, and if so, if that path ultimately led to his untimely death half a world away last week.