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Grants given to 6 Somali groups in MN to counter violent extremism

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Six Somali groups in Minnesota have been given $300,000 grant funding to combat the radicalization that has seen dozens of young adults leave the U.S. to fight for ISIS or al-Shabaab.

FOX 9 reports the funding has come from national nonprofit group Youthprise, which on Thursday announced the money – a mixture of state and federal grants – would be funneled to the six Minnesota organizations under the federal Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.

"Minnesota is home to many high potential, creative and bright Somali youth," Youthprise director Marcus Pope told the TV station. "Many of these youth also face formidable challenges, including a sense of alienation, a search for identity as new immigrants, unemployment and poverty that can open them to recruitment by extremist groups.

"That’s why it’s so important to be investing in positive youth development activities."

There's no consensus on exactly how many Minnesotans have left to fight with extremist groups, but reports state at least 22 young Somalis have joined al-Shabaab, with others traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said last April that Minnesota has a "terror recruiting problem."

It's hoped that giving youth groups more funding will effect change, making young Somali-Americans feel less disenfranchised and giving them more assistance as they try to find work or education.

"We really believe that communities have the capacity to solve their own problems, and so we're really trying to build the infrastructure and capacity of the Somali community, because we believe they're the solution to the issues that they're confronting." Pope said, according to KSTP.

Here are the six groups that receive the funding.

  • Africa Reconciliation and Development Organization: Given $25,000 to prevent conflict through youth development and educational programs.
  • Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota: Gets the biggest grant of $100,000 to enhance employment and educational opportunities.
  • Shanta Link: A $35,000 grant to implement a Somali Youth Mental Health project with the African Immigrant Community Services.
  • Somali American Parent Association: An $85,000 grant to star a "Somali Youth and Family Resilience" program with Somali youth group Ka Joog.
  • Ummah Project: $30,000 for a Somali American Leaders and Mediators program.
  • West Bank Athletic Club: Based at Cedar Riverside, where many Somali-Americans live in Minneapolis, the money will be used to build up the club's infrastructure.

The Associated Press reports Minnesota – more specifically, Minneapolis – is one of three locations participating in the CVE pilot project, along with Boston and Los Angeles.

The news organization adds that Luger is working to secure more funding from the federal government, bidding for a slice of a $10 million pot earmarked for states trying to prevent extremism.

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