Al Shabaab's American Recruits
Recruitment in the U.S.
Posted: February 1, 2010
Al Shabaab, the FBI alleges, has made an "active and deliberate attempt" to recruit young American men both in person and on the Internet. "These young men have been recruited to fight in a foreign war by individuals and groups using violence against government troops and civilians," said B. Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minneapolis, who brought charges against some of the men.
Mahamud Said Omar, a former janitor at Abubaker As-Saddique Islamic Center, a mosque many of the defendants attended, played a major role in recruiting some of the young men, according to the Department of Justice. In November 2009, Omar was arrested in the Netherlands and charged in a Minneapolis District Court with providing the young men funding to travel to Somalia. He also allegedly visited an Al Shabaab safe-house and donated money to the group for the purchase of AK-47 rifles for the Minneapolis men to use. The Department of Justice has found no evidence that the mosque's leadership was involved in recruitment.
Two men who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists, Abdifatah Yusuf Isse and Salah Osman Ahmed, claimed in their defenses that they were recruited in Minneapolis to join Al Shabaab. In a motion filed by Isse's lawyer, he said the recruitment happened "at a place of worship." Ahmed reportedly admitted that he attended "secret meetings" beginning in October 2007.
Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Minneapolis who the Department of Justice alleges previously fought "jihad" in Somalia, held meetings at private residences and a mosque where described his experiences in Somalia as "true brotherhood."
Young American men have also been targeted for recruitment by Al Shabaab through propaganda videos posted on the Internet. For example, Omar Hammami, an Alabama native who has become the public face and voice of Al Shabaab, has appeared in several video urging foreigners "to come and live the life of a mujahid."
After an ambush shown in a March 2009 video, Hammami, who is identified in the video as Abu Mansour al Amriki (Arabic for "Abu Mansour the American"), praised a killed fighter as a martyr and said, "We need more like him, so if you can encourage more of your children and more of your neighbors and anyone around you to send people like him to this jihad, it would be a great asset for us."
A month later, two men who identified themselves as Abu Muslim and Abu Yaxye appeared in another video claiming to be "Somali youth" from the United States who joined Al Shabaab. "We came from the U.S. with a good life and a good education, but we came to fight alongside our brothers of Al Shabaab…to be killed for the sake of God," Abu Muslim reportedly said in the video. Later in the video, Abu Yaxye added, "We are here to invite others to come and join us."
Prior to leaving Minnesota, several of the men who trained with Al Shabaab reportedly listened to a sermon titled "Constants on the Path of Jihad" given by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who targets English-speaking Muslim audiences with radical online lectures that encourage attacks against the West and non-Muslims. In December 2008, al-Awlaki praised Al Shabaab, calling on all Muslims to "help them with men and money."
Some of the men raised funds for their travels from other members of the Somali community in Minneapolis by lying about what they intended to do with the money. In one instance, some of the men told members of the Somali community that one young man needed money to study Quran in Saudi Arabia, according to court documents.
Efforts to recruit fighters for Al Shabaab have taken place in other countries as well. For example, an Al Shabaab recruiter at a youth recreation center in Stockholm, Sweden, reportedly showed YouTube clips that encouraged young people to sacrifice themselves for their beliefs. Approximately 20 individuals from Sweden have been recruited by Al Shabaab, according to the Swedish security service. Other foreign recruits come from Australia, the United Kingdom, South Asia, and the Middle East.