The boys of Somalia

Federal officials are clamming up about the indictment of two men — one from Brooklyn Park — on terrorism charges, leading to questions about whether it may have something to do with the disappearance of Somali men in Minneapolis, several of whom have been killed back in their homeland’s civil war.

The feds could answer that question with a “yes” or “no,” but they didn’t.

“He was indicted on one count of material support to terrorism, a count of conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure in a foreign country and two counts of making false statements,” said FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson. He said he cannot confirm the indictment has something to do with the missing men.

Here’s the indictment. It said two men conspired with each other and others to “kill, kidnap, maim, or injure persons outside the United States.” It didn’t say what persons or where, but noted the two took a Northwest Airlines flight to Amsterdam with a final destination of Somalia.

Who’s responsible for recruiting the men to go fight a civil war? MPR’s Laura Yuen has a partial answer to that question. It was Zakaria Maruf, one of two men reportedly killed over the weekend.

Stephen Smith, an attorney for an unnamed client, says Maruf tried to recruit his client to fight in Somalia. Smith is advising people who have been questioned about the disappearances by the FBI.

He says Maruf’s “status” made it difficult to say “no.”


“He was someone who people looked up to, in the sense that he was kind of cool. He sort exuded his own independence. And so, when [my client] is asked this question in such a direct fashion, it’s like talking to an older sibling you might look up to. There’s no question he wasn’t going to participate in it, but how do you say it?”

From the looks of things, it’s starting to appear as though no single person is responsible for the disappearances. Over the weekend, the New York Times said the missing men “appear to have been motivated by a complex mix of politics and faith, and their communications show how some are trying to recruit other young Americans to their cause.”

Last week, Yuen reported on a November 2007 rally, in which one speaker — Zakariah Abdi — exhorts the audience:


“Enlist yourselves. Come to see us in Asmara,” Abdi said to the crowd. “Let us get to know each other. We will offer training. Then whoever wants to fight for two months, like the Eritreans used to do, can then go back to school.”

How much — if any — the speech contributed to the decision of the men to return to Somalia we don’t know.

The Times said it analyzed records and Facebook pages and determined that the missing men “seem caught between inner-city America and the badlands of Africa, pining for Starbucks one day, extolling the virtues of camel’s milk and Islamic fundamentalism the next.”

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