A few clicks away: Activists, investigators probe online terrorist recruiting

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The Star Tribune on Sunday explores the digital realm of terrorists who are recruiting in the Twin Cities, using social media and flashy videos to lure young people to battle in the Middle East.

The newspaper describes one video released within the last month, with a narrator imploring impressionable young Minnesota Somalis and others to join the effort abroad: “Those that are living in the U.S. — especially Minnesota — Great Britain, Germany and many parts of the kuffar [unbelievers ’] world, you have a decision to make today."

The world of terrorist recruitment on the web is just a few clicks away, the Star Tribune reports. “We’ve been trying to stop this thing since 2008, and we’re not even close,” Mohamed Farah tells the newspaper. He tracks – and tries to negate – the recruiting effort of terrorists in Minnesota.

The propaganda videos are not new – the Wall Street Journal ran a story on them in January, when a video surfaced with English-speaking jihadis from the U.K. and Australia.

A much more recent video even uses clips from the popular video game Grand Theft Auto 5, edited as a recruitment tool for the group that calls itself the Islamic State, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Forbes notes.

The group has shown notable digital acumen in its recruiting efforts, experts say.

Minnesotans answer the call

As news reports in recent months have described the rise of ISIS, about a dozen Minnesotans have left the state to fight for radicals in Iraq and Syria, officials have said.

The FBI’s Minneapolis bureau is reportedly investigating ISIS recruitment efforts in the Twin Cities.

The Star Tribune notes that U.S. authorities recently have intercepted young Somalis at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Several young women — including a 19-year-old from St. Paul — departed from Minnesota about three weeks ago and are now believed to be in Syria.

One Minnesota man, Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, died in a battle in Syria in August, and another man from the state is suspected of dying in the same fight.

Meanwhile, MinnPost reports that some Muslim leaders in Minnesota have pushed for a coordinate public campaign to counter terror organization recruitment. Others, however, are concerned that a public campaign could create a backlash toward local Muslims, and they suggest a private effort within mosques, community centers and families is a better way to attack the problem, MinnPost notes.

Congressional response

The U.S. Senate last week approved President Barack Obama’s plan to train and equip Syrian rebels as part of an effort to attack the Islamic State militants. Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted to support the president's plan. The House had approved the plan earlier in the week.

"When you harm our citizens, when you threaten the United States, when you threaten our allies, it doesn't frighten us. It unites us," Obama said last week.

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