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Thursday, February 26, 2009

'First' American suicide bomber killed 30 after being 'radicalized in his hometown'

WASHINGTON — The United States has reported its first suicide bomber, a naturalized citizen who returned to his native Somalia and blew himself up for an Al Qaida-aligned group.   

"A man from Minneapolis became what we believe to be the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing," FBI director Robert Mueller said.

"The attack occurred last October in northern Somalia, but it appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota."

Officials said Shirwa Ahmed became the first U.S. citizen to blow himself up in a suicide strike. They said Ahmed killed as many as 30 people in a suicide car bombing in northern Somalia in October 2008. He was returned for burial in the U.S. city of Minneapolis.

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Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on Feb. 23, Mueller said Ahmed, who arrived in Minneapolis with his family more than a decade ago, was one of several suicide bombers in the attack on Somalia. The FBI director said Ahmed was recruited in the United States and ordered to return to Somalia for his mission.

"The prospect of young men, indoctrinated and radicalized within their own communities and induced to travel to Somalia to take up arms — and to kill themselves and perhaps many others — is a perversion of the immigrant story," Mueller said.

Officials have expressed concern over the susceptibility of the Somali emigrant community to recruitment by Al Qaida. Since 2006, they said, dozens of Somali-Americans have left their homes in Minneapolis to join Al Qaida-aligned groups in Somalia.

"It raises the question of whether these young men will one day come home, and, if so, what might they undertake here," Mueller told the meeting in Minneapolis. "A crisis in the Horn of Africa may well have a ripple effect in Minneapolis."

Officials said Ahmed and other Somalis were recruited by the Shabab militia in Somalia. They said Shabab was receiving instructions and finances from Al Qaida in the Islamic revolt against the pro-Western exiled government.

"We must also determine if threats around the world translate to potential threats here at home," Mueller said. "If there is a suicide bombing in Somalia, are we at greater risk? Do we understand the full extent of that threat?"

Mueller said the United States faces a threat from Al Qaida as well as what he termed "homegrown terrorists." He said the threat stems anywhere from Britain and the United States to North Africa and Yemen.

"We are increasingly concerned with pockets of people around the world that identify with Al Qaida and its ideology," Mueller said. "Some may have little or no actual contact with Al Qaida. Yet fringe organizations can quickly gain broader aspirations and appeal. And should they connect with the core of Al Qaida, from training to the planning and execution of attacks, the game becomes radically different."

Islamic activists financed by Saudi Arabia said the FBI has recruited agents to monitor activity in mosques throughout the United States. The activists said the FBI has also been pressuring Muslims to report suspicious activity in their communities.

"Federal law enforcement cannot establish trust with American Muslim communities through meetings and town hall forums, while at the same time sending paid informants who instigate violent rhetoric in mosques," the Muslim Public Affairs Council said. "This mere act stigmatizes American mosques and casts a shadow of doubt and distrust between American Muslims and their neighbors. It has also led many mosques and community groups to reconsider their relationship with the FBI, including most recently the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California."

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