"They are going to Somalia to fight for their homeland, not to join Al
Qaida's jihad against the United States, so far," Liepman said.
In December 2008, a Somali expatriate from Minneapolis, Shirwa Ahmed,
became the first American suicide bomber. The expatriate, who acquired U.S.
citizenship, participated in a series of coordinated bombings on the United
Ethiopian consulate and the presidential palace in Somalia.
"Some get there and become cannon fodder," FBI national security
official Philip Mudd said. "These folks aren't going over there to become
part of terrorist cells. A lot of them are being put on the front line and
some of them, I think, have been killed on the front line, from the United
Officials said the Somalis were being recruited by Al Qaida both in
Minnesota as well as through the Internet. So far, nobody has been arrested
and charged as an Al Qaida recruiter in the United States. But officials
said suspects were being investigated by the FBI.
One Somali expatriate, Osman Ahmed, said his nephew left high school in
Minnesota after he underwent indoctrination in a local mosque. He said his
nephew Burhan Hassan, a high school senior, and other expatriates around
Minneapolis, allured by the prospect of an Islamic paradise, traveled first
to Somalia without the knowledge of their parents.
In Somalia, Ahmed said, Hassan underwent military training at an Al
Shabab facility. Ahmed said Al Shabab warned the American recruits that they
would be arrested as soon as they returned home.
"Our children had no clue they were being recruited to join Al Shabaab,"
Ahmed said. "We also heard that when kids arrive, they are immediately
shocked at what 'utopia' is and all their documents and belongings are
confiscated. They are whisked to hidden military camps for training. They
are also told if they flee and return home that they will end up in
Officials said that neither the intelligence nor law enforcement
community viewed the Somali expatriate community in Minneapolis as an
insurgency threat. They said their major concern was that Americans trained
by Al Qaida in Somalia could succeed in returning to the United States and
conduct a major strike.
The U.S. intelligence community has determined that the threat from
Somalia to the United States would increase in 2009. Officials said Al
Shabab was preparing to merge with Al Qaida, which would grant Osama Bin
Laden a renewed presence in East Africa.
"We judge the terrorist threat to US interests in East Africa, primarily
from Al Qaida and Al Qaida-affiliated Islamic extremists in Somalia and
Kenya, will increase in the next year as Al Qaida's East Africa network
continues to plot operations against U.S., Western, and local targets and
the influence of the Somalia-based terrorist group Al Shabaab grows,"
National Intelligence director Dennis Blair said. "Given the high-profile
U.S. role in the region and its perceived direction-in the minds of Al Qaida
and local extremists-of foreign intervention in Somalia, we assess U.S.
counterterrorism efforts will be challenged not only by the Al Qaida
operatives in the Horn, but also by Somali extremists and
increasing numbers of foreign fighters supporting Al Shabaab's efforts."