Youth group leaders want millions of dollars in state cash to fund activity programs designed to keep Minnesota's young Somalis out of the clutches of extremist groups.
The Associated Press reports that Somali youth group Ka Joog are asking for $4.35 million of state cash spread over two years, which it says would keep at-risk Somali youths in Minnesota's public school system occupied through arts initiatives, workforce training and after-school programs.
Speaking to a Senate policy and budget meeting on Thursday, Ka Joog executive director Mohamed Farah said: "It's an issue that we must come together to combat. It's an ideology issue, and we must fight ideology with an ideology."
International extremism is a concern for state lawmakers, made even more so this week by the incidents seen in Paris, as at least 22 Minnesotans are thought to have gone to Somalia over the past eight years to fight for terrorist network al-Shabab.
Also, in November, two Minnesotans were charged with attempting to aid the Islamic State in Syria, one of whom was stopped at Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport, while the other is believed to have made it to Syria.
Millions already pledged to fight terror recruitment in Minnesota
A formal request for the cash has yet to be put to state lawmakers, AP says, but if it was approved further down the line, it would mean a significant amount of money would be put towards combating extremism in the state.
The $4.35 million would be in addition to a federally-funded Department of Justice pilot program running in Minneapolis and St. Paul also focused on the Somali population, which is being led by Minnesota's U.S attorney Andrew Luger.
Luger is preparing to announce next month his action plan for the program, designed to prevent a rise in extremism among the 30,000 Somalis living in the Metro, that will center on job training and community engagement with those at risk of recruitment. Ka Joog has said it would look to spread workshops to other cities in Minnesota.
The Somali Press notes that youths are being targeted via social media channels via extremist propaganda, and calls on families to be more vigilant and aware of what their relatives are doing online.
Ka Joog, which already runs a number of events and workshops designed to help Somali-Americans in Minnesota, said that unlike the DOJ pilot, it would look to spread its own programs outside of the Metro area, to other cities in Minnesota.