The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 23, 2013

Minnesota Somalis condemn Kenya mall attack

STEVE KARNOWSKI
Associated Press

---- — MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Members of Minnesota's large Somali community on Monday condemned the deadly attack by Somali terrorists on a Kenyan shopping mall, while waiting anxiously to see if any Somali-Americans had a hand in the violence.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has the largest Somali community in the United States, and it's been a recruiting ground for al-Shabab, the armed Islamic group linked with al-Qaida that carried out the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Since 2007, at least 22 young men have left Minnesota to join al-Shabab. Some have died, some remain at large and others were among those prosecuted in what the FBI has said is one of the largest efforts to recruit Americans to a foreign terrorist organization.

Several community leaders and imams called a news conference at a Minneapolis mosque later Monday to "condemn the heinous act of senseless violence," in which at least 62 people have been killed. The announcement said they wanted "to stand in solidarity with the victims and their families and to point out the menace of extremism."

At least one Somali-American from Minnesota had relatives who were injured in the attack, which began Saturday.

Hodan Hassan, of Minnetonka, said her nieces — Fardosa Abdi, 17, and Dheman Abdi, 16 — were shopping when the siege started. Hassan said Fardosa was in critical condition Monday after undergoing two surgeries for severe leg injuries, while Dheman had a bullet break her leg and an explosion injured her arm.

She said the teens are Canadian citizens who moved three years ago to Nairobi, where their father has a real estate business. The girls visited Hassan this summer.

"It's tragic. It's really like a nightmare. ... I'm sad and frustrated and angry. I'm angry at the ones that decided to attack innocent people there," Hassan said.

"It's people who don't care, with no hearts," she said of the terrorists.

The recruitment of Somalis in Minnesota started in 2007. They were told they would be helping to expel troops from neighboring Ethiopia. The Ethiopians had been brought into Somalia by its weak UN-backed government, but were seen by many Somalis as invaders.