ISIS in Minnesota: Franken asks DOJ to focus on group's US recruiting efforts


Sen. Al Franken is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to "devote all necessary and appropriate resources" to disrupting Islamic militant groups' recruitment of Americans, including in Minnesota, according to a press release.

The 63-year-old Democrat wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining his concerns about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (often referred to as ISIL, the Islamic State, or ISIS), and the influence they appear to wield in the U.S.

You can view the full letter here.

"We must act diligently and responsibly to prevent Americans from taking up arms with ISIL, or from reentering our country if they do," the letter says. "The Justice Department should focus its resources and efforts in places where terrorism recruitment efforts may be happening at higher rates, such as Minnesota."

Franken also says in the letter he's "troubled" by President Barack Obama's recent comments saying his administration hasn't fully developed a strategy to address the Islamic State.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson was in Plymouth, Minnesota Tuesday, the same day the Islamic State released video of a member beheading freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. Johnson said the U.S. needs to intervene and "stamp out" the extremist group, The Associated Press reported.

2 Minnesota men killed, more fighting

The senator's request comes about a week after two men with Minnesota ties reportedly died fighting for the Islamic State in Syria.

Douglas McAuthur McCain, a 33-year-old who went grew up and went to high school in Robbinsdale, was killed the weekend of Aug. 23-24 in a firefight, NBC News first reported. A National Security Council spokesperson confirmed it was McCain, an American citizen, who died.

Afterward, news media reported that another man, Abdirahmaan Muhumed of Minneapolis, was also killed fighting in Syria that weekend. The State Department did not publicly confirm Muhumed's death however.

FOX 9 reports Muhumed worked at Minneaplis-St. Paul International Airport at some point in the past, but didn't have details about how long he held that job.

ABC News reports it's believed nearly a dozen men from the Twin Cities area have left the country to fight with extremist groups in Syria.

Days after the initial reports of the two men being killed, the FBI told USA Today it was investigating Islamic State recruitment efforts in Minnesota's Muslim community.

Social media's role

The Islamic State's effective recruiting efforts are often linked back to their social media marketing strategy.

The group uses hashtags and HD videos to spread its message, the Wall Street Journal reported, with thousands of accounts on Twitter apparently tied to the militant group (whether as supporters, or actual fighters).

And the message swings wildly, from videos of mass executions and beheadings, to memes of fighters with the popular hazelnut spread Nutella, PBS' News Hour said. The Wall Street Journal noted one ISIL backer lamented the loss of Robin Williams via Twitter, and used the platform to talk about his favorite movies featuring the late actor.

There's even an Arabic-language app to spread the Islamic State message called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, The Atlantic reported. By downloading it, users – of which there are hundreds – allow an ISIL social media team to occasionally post tweets to their account, which feature content supportive of the cause, The Atlantic said.

The widespread use of social media, which can be publicly seen, is addressing two western groups, the Daily Beast wrote: They're trying to scare those who are already repulsed by them, but also hoping to inspire the small number of people who actually find their message relatable.

"ISIL's acts of terror deeply offend the principles espoused by religions the world over, including that which ISIL falsely purports to represent," Franken wrote in his letter to Holder. "And, in my experience, no one is more upset about young members of their communities going to fight alongside our enemies than are those communities themselves."

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