Terrorist group recruiters are attempting to engage young Somalis in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for jihad abroad. A handful of people from the city, home to the largest Somali population in the U.S., have already left to join militant groups in Syria within the last year, authorities told the Associated Press. About 50,000 ethnic Somalis live in Minneapolis.
It's unclear whether terrorist recruiters are enlisting young people specifically for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, but authorities say recruiters regularly approach Somali teenagers in parks and strike up conversations with them about the Quran. The conversations often lead to talk of jihad, according to the AP.
"This is a part of the indoctrination process,” Evan Kohlmann, chief information officer at Flashpoint Global Partners, a self-described “provider of threat intelligence,” told the AP. “They are trying to brainwash people. When it's face to face, it's a lot easier to get people interested or used to the idea of beheading someone." Since 2007, more than 22 young Minnesotans have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab, an Islamic terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda.
It can be difficult to determine whether someone who approaches young Somalis in public to discuss Islam is recruiting for a terrorist organization abroad, or that he even holds radical views in the first place, authorities have said. However, terrorist enrollment in the West is nothing new. ISIS has recruiters all over the Western world, including Canada, Britain and the U.S. They use social media and known jihadi supporters to disseminate “the whole ISIS brand,” Mubin Shaikh, a former Taliban recruiter in Toronto who later became a national security operative in Canada, told International Business Times earlier this month.
Most Western recruiters for ISIS are teenagers who recruit mainly men to fight in Syria. Most recruits have no prior connection to Syria and aren't “religious fanatics,” according to terrorism experts.