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Vol. 73/No. 13      April 6, 2009

FBI targets Somalis in Minneapolis
(front page)
MINNEAPOLIS—The FBI has been interrogating members of the Somali community here about the “disappearances” of more than 20 Somali youth. A U.S. Senate committee held hearings March 11 on FBI claims that these youth may have been recruited to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States in the future. There are an estimated 70,000 to 200,000 Somalis living in the United States.

Leaders in the Somali community say it has become clear that the FBI is seeking to create an atmosphere to force people to testify about their religious and political activities.

The FBI alleges that the youth have gone to Somalia to fight with al-Shabab, an armed Islamist group that was fighting to overthrow the Somali government in Mogadishu. That government, which came out of a U.S.-backed invasion of the country by thousands of Ethiopian troops in 2006, was replaced following UN-brokered elections earlier this year. The new government has the support of the main imperialist powers, including Washington, and is backed by thousands of African Union troops.

In February FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the Somali youth were “radicalized” by people in two mosques in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Mueller said Shirwa Ahmed carried out a suicide bombing last October in an attack by al-Shabab in northern Somalia. U.S. intelligence officials have claimed that the youth have joined al-Shabab and that this group has growing ties to al-Qaeda. Leaders of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center mosque in Minneapolis conducted an open house February 25 to allow scrutiny from the media and people from the community.

In addition to hearing the FBI's claims, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs heard testimony from Andrew Liepman, deputy director of intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center. Liepman warned, "We are concerned that if a few Somali American youth could be motivated to engage in such activities overseas, fellow travelers could return to the United States and engage in terrorist activities here." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate committee, called the ongoing investigation the "most serious instance of homegrown terrorism in the United States."

A number of local Somali leaders have urged cooperation with the FBI. However, it is clear that many Somalis are suspicious of the FBI and are not talking.

A young Somali, Omar Ali, told the Militant, “The FBI agents go up to people on the street here and put a microphone before their mouths and record what they say. They ask questions like, ‘What are you doing? Do you know any young people going back to Somalia to carry out suicide bombings?’"

Mohamed, a physician who is Somali, told the Associated Press that his cousin was detained for hours at the Minneapolis airport while being questioned about a January visit to Nairobi, Kenya, and which mosques he attended. "What is disturbing is the manner of the questions," Mohamed said. "Nobody would ask, 'Have you been to a church?'"

Tom Fiske, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, told the Militant, “The FBI investigations are violations of the democratic rights of people in the Somali communities and of all working people. Using the specter of ‘terrorism’ they seek to legitimize spying and disruption of mosques, community organizations, and individuals within the Somali community. This will be used to legitimize the expansion of spying and disruption of the labor movement, the Black struggle, socialist organizations, and other working-class movements.”

The FBI is carrying out similar investigations in Somali communities in Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Maine; San Diego; and Seattle. Currently a grand jury in Minneapolis is subpoenaing testimony from people in the Somali community.

Somalis have reason to be suspicious of the FBI. In November 2001 the FBI, along with other U.S. government agencies, raided Somali businesses that transfer money from Somalis living here to family and friends in Somalia. The excuse was the same as what's being presented for the current investigations, that the businesses had ties to terrorist groups. Subsequently, the government was forced to admit they had no evidence. This was small comfort to those whose businesses were raided, property confiscated or damaged, and shut down for many months. At the time there were protests by Somalis and others against the FBI action.  
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