Skip to main content

Video: NBC News looks at Americans who leave to fight for the Islamic State

  • Author:
  • Updated:

This embed is invalid

The NBC News program "On Assignment" did a special segment on Americans who have left the U.S. to fight for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State.

Minnesota has been a target for recruiters, who often try to lure young Somali men from the Twin Cities to fight overseas. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has called it a "problem."

The 13-minute TV story (which you can watch above) doesn't go into the Minnesota cases. But the show's website version of the story highlights 15 foreign fighters, including four with Minnesota ties:

Hanad Abdullahi Mohallim

Mohallim, who went to Burnsville High School, was included in a Congressional report detailing aspiring fighters from America, which found Minnesota had the highest number of recruits from a state. MPR News said last year Mohallim boarded a flight to Turkey in 2014, and later traveled to Syria to fight. He's believed to be dead, the AP says.

Abdi Nur

He was one of the 10 Minnesota men charged with trying to support the Islamic State. Six have pleaded guilty, three are currently on trial, and one – Nur – fled to Turkey, and his whereabouts are unknown, the FBI said. Nur, who is from Minneapolis, called home after arriving, and the number began with the country code for Turkey. That same number was used by another recruit: Yusuf Jama.

Yusuf Jama

Yusuf Jama, of Minneapolis, is also named in the Congressional foreign fighter report. The Star Tribune said he booked a flight from New York to Istanbul, and later called home from the same Turkish number Nur used. Jama is believed to have died overseas in late 2014.

Douglas McCain

Born in Illinois but raised in the Twin Cities, Douglas McCain was killed while fighting in Syria in August of 2014. His social media postings were referred to often, including his Twitter bio which read "Its Islam over everything."

In the last decade or so, at least 22 young Somali men left Minnesota to join overseas terror groups, according to reports.

In early 2015, authorities believed a total of about 250 Americans had gone overseas to fight for jihadist groups. The FBI told NBC News they've seen a decrease in those cases recently.

Trial of suspected Islamic State supporters continues

Meanwhile, the trial of three Minnesota men charged with attempting to support the Islamic State will continue this week.

Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar face charges of conspiracy to murder outside the U.S., attempting to support a terrorist organization, and other charges.

KSTP has details on the 16-person jury – eight men, eight women, and not very racially diverse. The Star Tribune, meanwhile, covered key testimony from Friday, which came two days after opening statements.

Six other suspected recruits (Zacharia Abdurahman, Hamza Ahmed, Adnan Farah, Hanad Musse, Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, and Abdullahi Yusuf) have pleaded guilty.

The Anti-War Committee hosted a rally last week protesting what it calls entrapment by the FBI in these cases, arguing investigators have "manufactured" terror cases for these suspects – essentially encouraging the suspects to plan to travel overseas with the use of an informant, providing them with resources, and then arresting them.

"In reality, there would be no case if not for the FBI informant who was paid $41,000 to entrap these young men by encouraging them to travel abroad and making arrangements such as buying passports," Sophia Hansen-Day of the Anti-War Committee said in an email news release.

Author Peter Bergen talks about law enforcement's strategy in his recent book, "The United States of Jihad," which looks at what ties together (or doesn't tie together) different cases of foreign fighters in recent years.

Next Up


Foundation, the building, the win

Identifying Value Plus Catalysts helps your financial strategy and foundation

boating minnesota lake

25-year-old Hopkins man drowns after falling off boat

The man reportedly fell from the boat while fishing with friends.

mayor frey city minneapolis live stream march 14 2022

What's in Mayor Jacob Frey's budget proposal?

Here's a breakdown of what the Minneapolis mayor is focusing on in 2023-24.

Low, Mimi Parker

Low cancels Europe shows due to Mimi Parker's cancer treatment

The Duluth band says the decision follows 'recent changes' in Parker's treatment.

Screen Shot 2022-08-15 at 11.09.39 AM

Wisconsin man admits to 1992 revenge killings 15 years after boyhood tragedy

The 52-year-old man is in custody 30 years after the 1992 double murder.

Chapel of Love at Mall of America

Chapel of Love set to close at Mall of America after nearly 30 years

The owner cited retirement as the reason for the closure.

Minneapolis police

Man stabbed to death in his Minneapolis home identified

The victim's wife had an order of protection out against the suspect.