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Concern over allure of Islamic State persists for MN Somali community

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Despite investigations and arrests, task forces and community groups, there is still worry that Somali-Americans living in Minnesota have recently left to join the Islamic State militant group.

MPR News reported local leaders in the community are concerned after murmurs that a group of missing young Somalis left to join the Islamic State.

Getting details – who may have left, where they were going, or why – is difficult, even within the community, the news service said. So nothing's been confirmed.

In a follow-up story, Rep. Keith Ellison – with Minnesota's 5th District – told MPR News it's hard to determine precisely why they left, because travel to most countries is perfectly legal.

 Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State during a 2014 demonstration. (Photo: Tauseef Mustafa, AFP/Getty Images)

Kashmiri demonstrators hold up a flag of the Islamic State during a 2014 demonstration. (Photo: Tauseef Mustafa, AFP/Getty Images)

The Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, an estimated 100,000 people, according to U.S. News.

At least nine Minnesotans have now been charged as part of this conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State. In April, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Minnesota has a terror recruiting problem.

One person on the ground floor of the fight to halt the exodus of Minnesota youths to the Islamic State is Abdi Warsame, the city councilor of Minneapolis' Ward 6 and first (and only) Somali on the council.

The 37-year-old was profiled recently by Politico Magazine, which detailed his hope of addressing specific local issues – but eventually being pulled into a foreign policy crisis.

Here's a small snippet from the four-page article:

"Warsame has been at the center of the region’s intensifying terrorism and recruitment concerns on different levels: At City Hall, he works on finding ways to create programs and opportunities leading youth to a productive future. In the community, he works with parents to educate them about the realities of radicalization in the community and the need to be involved in their children’s day-to-day activities. And at federal level, earlier this year, Warsame was part of a delegation of Somali-American leaders from Minnesota that was invited to the White House's Countering Violent Extremism summit."

His goal, he told the magazine, was to "become the best council member that I could be. And that I serve the whole city of Minneapolis, and not just Somali-American population.”

Court case continues

And in court, the federal case against a group of Somali-American men charged with planning to assist the Islamic State continued last Friday.

In court, prosecutors revealed documents they say shows the men were planning to join IS for a long time, and eventually tried to leave the United States when they felt federal investigators were getting close, the Star Tribune reported.

Prosecutors also said the men were courted by other Minnesotans who had left to join terror groups, according to WCCO.

Six were arrested and charged in April; a seventh pleaded guilty two months prior.

Defense attorneys argued the suspects should be released until their trial, because investigators' use of a confidential informant is entrapment, the Star Tribune explains.

A motions hearing is slated for Sept. 2, according to MPR News.

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