Counter-Terrorism: Terrorists Walk Among Us

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August 5, 2011: In the United States, Congressional hearings are being held to determine the extent to which Americans have joined Islamic terrorist organizations. This has always been a contentious issue, as Moslem migrants to the United States have always been regarded as more loyal to their adopted country than those who went to Europe, and other non-Moslem areas. This was largely because the United States has always been more accepting of migrants, being a nation of migrants. This is widely known in Moslem nations, where surveys regularly show the United States as the favorite destination of those seeking to migrate. Even though most Moslem nations have anti-Americanism as a popular attitude, the United States remains the most desired destination. Opinion surveys of Moslem migrants in the United States shows that this community is more satisfied with their experience in America than non-Moslems migrants.

But some American Moslems have shown up overseas, working for Islamic terrorist organizations. Islamic terror groups have been particularly successful in Somali-American communities. It’s now believed that at least 40 young Somali-Americans were recruited to return to Somalia to fight for Islamic radical groups. This has been going on for some time.

For example, it was two years ago that U.S. officials identified the remains of a suicide bomber who committed an attack in Somalia in October, 2008, as an American. The U.S. government returned the remains to his family in Minnesota in December 2008. The bomber, 27 year old Shirwa Ahmed, was a naturalized American citizen of Somali origin. It was then believed that 10-20 other young Somali men had gone back to Somalia to fight with Islamic radicals in the previous year or so. The FBI had been investigating this situation for nearly a year, and had not yet released their findings. This was understandable, as it was an ongoing investigation, and the FBI didn't want to jeopardize the sources it had, or reveal how close it was to identifying and building a case against those who recruited and paid for the missing Somali-Americans to go fight for Islamic radicals in Somalia. The investigation continued, and some of the recruiters were identified, and prosecuted. It was found that the recruiting was more extensive than first believed.

Suicide bomber Shirwa Ahmed migrated to Minneapolis with his family in the 1990s. There are 15,000 Somalis, mostly recent migrants, in the Minneapolis area. Somalis claim there are many more, up to 80,000, but this would imply a large number of illegal migrants, and there was little evidence of this. The young men have the usual problems of recent arrivals from a Third World country. Many have a hard time adapting, and some join Somali street gangs. These gangs largely preyed on fellow Somalis, although there were increasing attacks on non-Somalis.

It was hoped that family ties would help maintain order in the Somali community. But then the State Department began DNA testing of family members allowed to migrate to the United States, and found that 80 percent were not family, but participants in a scam whereby they paid up to $10,000 to have a Somali already in the U.S. claim them as a family member so they could enter legally.

The Somali community in Minneapolis is a mixed lot. Some are college educated professionals who left before the government disappeared in 1991. Most, however, are poorly educated, often illiterate, Somalis who fled the violence that has beset the country since 1991. And many of these got in illegally via the false family member scam. A number of the Somali migrants are Islamic conservatives, and some of these are believed to be the key people in the Islamic terrorist recruiting operation. This sort of recruiting goes on in Moslem migrant communities throughout the world. What worries the FBI the most is that if some of these missing Somalis are given terrorist training overseas, and then return to the United States.

It’s not just the United States that has this problem. Islamic radicals are known to be working in the Arab-descended communities in many Latin American countries, aided by the porous frontiers, such as in the notorious "three borders" region, where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet. The Islamic radicals have been able to raise some money from Latin American Arabs, often through bogus "charities." But the extent to which they have been able to recruit active supporters is harder to gauge. In some countries, such as Bolivia and Paraguay, recruiting efforts have been reported to the police, who took action. One factor hampering the Islamic radicals down there was that many of the Arab immigrants to Latin America were Christians, and those who were Moslems often became secularized, in an environment where they found very few co-religionists.

While only about a hundred American Moslems have gone overseas to fight for Islamic terror groups, several percent of the Moslem-American population supports Islamic terrorism (it’s much higher among Europe Moslems and even higher in Moslem countries). This is a cause of contention, and sometimes violence, within the Moslem community. The disputes sometimes become physical, and there have been murders, usually because those who back Islamic radicalism also support violence to further their goals. However, the Islamic radical fans are so outnumbered that al Qaeda warned the September 11, 2001 attackers to stay away from Moslem-American communities, because of the risk of someone calling the police or FBI. But the appeal of Islamic radicalism is strong enough to spur some small percentage of Moslem-Americans to violence, planning violence or supporting those who do.

 

 


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