FBI seeks help finding any Minnesotans fighting in Syria


The FBI is investigating whether Minnesotans have traveled to Syria to join fighters in that country's civil war and is asking the public for help with possible leads.

The Bureau's Minneapolis office released a two-sentence statement on its website asking for information about anyone who has plans to travel to a foreign country for armed combat or has been recruited to do so.

MPR News says the Voice of America news service broadcast an interview with a Minneapolis woman who said her 20-year-old brother left for Syria last week and the family notified the FBI.

The spokesman for Minneapolis' FBI office tells MPR it's not clear how many people may have left Minnesota to fight in Syria and investigators are working on questions such as: "Do we have a person or persons who have traveled to Syria?...Are there others who may plan to travel to Syria to engage in the fighting?"

FOX 9 reports a leader in Minnesota's Somali community, whom it did not identify, told the station a dozen men have left.

The FBI has said that Somali-Americans living in Minnesota were targets of a large recruiting effort by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab beginning in 2007.

Community activist Abdi Bihi tells the Associated Press Minneapolis' Somali community is vulnerable to such recruiting because many young people lack jobs and feel like outsiders.

Mohamed Farah, who leads a Somali-American group that works to counteract radicalism, tells the AP accounts of young men leaving Minnesota for Syria are reminiscent of what happened in the community in 2008.

"I think this is a second round, but now it's to Syria, and it really shows we have a lot of work ahead of us," Farah said.

Law enforcement officials said a recruiting video released by al-Shabab last month appeared to be aimed at Minnesotans. It called on viewers to join the group and featured an image of an airline ticket from Minneapolis to Mogadishu.

When it comes to tracking the movements of foreign fighters, one U.S. counterterrorism official tells the Washington Post Syria is "a bit of a black hole. We don't have a lot of collection there."

In May a suicide bomber from Florida became the first American confirmed to be fighting in Syria's civil war.

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