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2 Minnesota men charged with attempting to aid terrorists in Syria

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Two Minnesota men who allegedly tried to join terrorists fighting in Syria have been charged with conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Tuesday. This comes as federal officials and the community work to combat extremism in Somali youth in the Twin Cities.

Abdi Nur, 20, and Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, both of the Twin Cities, were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). Nur is also charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

"These two young men conspired to join ISIL and travel from Minnesota to the Middle East to engage in a campaign of terror in support of a violent ideology," U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in a news release announcing the charges.

Yusef was stopped by FBI agents in May before he attempted to board a Turkey-bound plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Nur, who is believed to be in the Middle East, was able to board a flight bound for Turkey the day after Yusef was arrested, the attorney's office said.

Combating extremism

A campaign to boost jobs and youth programs among the Twin Cities' Somali community in a bid to combat extremism will be put before the White House next month.

An action plan to prevent a rise of extremism among the 30,000 Somalis living in the Metro area has been put together by U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger in conjunction with almost 50 leaders of the Somali community, the Star Tribune reports.

He will take his Building Community Resiliency plan – which focuses on generating jobs for 16 to 64-year-olds and creating after-school activities for Somali youths – to Washington, in the hope it will be backed by the Obama administration.

It comes after a handful of Somali youths left the Twin Cities to fight alongside terrorist group ISIS in Iraq, and Luger has said more needs to be done to prevent extremism before it starts.

Luger has formulated the campaign after meeting regularly with Somali leaders as part of yearlong pilot program designed to engage with vulnerable communities and combat terror recruiting, WCCO reports.

The Twin Cities is home to the largest community of Somalis in the United States, but the community faces challenges and leaders told Luger that alienation and a lack of work could be contributing to the radicalization of youths.

Figures from Minnesota Compass show that between 2010 and 2012, 63 percent of Minnesota's Somali community lived below the poverty line, easily the highest level among foreign-born communities in the state.

It also found that only 54.5 percent of the Somali adult population are in work, and almost 40 percent of them had not graduated from high school.

As well as boosting jobs and youth services, Luger also signaled he intends to tackle the issue of racial profiling, with Somali community leaders saying many Somalis drive to Chicago for flights, as they claim they are repeatedly stopped and questioned for no reason at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International, the Star Tribune says.

'Average' guy takes on extremists

A member of Minneapolis' Somali community has taken matters into his own hands when it comes to combating extremism.

Mohamed Ahmed has been using his talents as a cartoonist to create videos aimed at youths aged 8 to 16 in response to the terror propaganda broadcast by organizations such as the Islamic State (also known as IS, or ISIS) and Al-Shabab, according to MPR.

Published on his website, Average Mohamed, he has been showing the videos at mosques, youth organizations and even in the homes of Somali families where a member has joined an extremist group.

On his website, he explains how it is "average people" who turn others into extremists, and so average people need to counter their ideologies.

"That counter-narrative is meant to question, challenge and agitate minds into not accepting what has been told in the propaganda videos that these organizations of extremism keep on creating," he told MPR.

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