FBI questions students, mosque over missing Somali men

Since about a dozen local men went missing, the FBI has been investigating ties to jihad in Somalia.

Ever since the mysterious disappearance of about a dozen Somali-American men âÄî many in their late teens âÄî the FBI has being intensifying investigations, questioning University of Minnesota students and others at a local mosque. The investigation left some University students and others participating in programs at Abubakar As-Saddiq mosque who were questioned bewildered. FBI special agent E. K. Wilson said the FBI is not targeting one group of people or mosque, but itâÄôs reaching out to the entire community asking about the disappeared men. Among those who disappeared, two are students from the University. Though there is no clear evidence about what exactly the missing men are doing, speculations in the community say they left for Somalia to fight in jihad. With these rumors and the suicide of Shirwa Ahmed , 27, âÄî a Somali-American citizen from Minneapolis who blew himself up in Somali âÄî the FBI started questioning those who they think know the missing men. News reports have said FBI Chief Robert Mueller confirmed someone in Minnesota recruited Ahmed to go to Somalia. A 19-year-old junior at the University, who requested to remain anonymous because of the ongoing case, spoke of her experience with the FBI. She was first questioned a month after the men disappeared. Unlike other Somali girls with a mix of American-style and traditional Muslim clothing, the studentâÄôs clothing conforms to the standards laid down by the Islamic Sharia âÄî a hijab that covers her entire body with the exception of the face. She recalled the questions from the FBI, which she described as âÄúirritating.âÄù âÄúThe FBI showed me pictures of the men and asked me how they behaved, who they looked up to, and the mosque they went to,âÄù she recalled. The student who told the story was confused about the reason she is going through âÄúall this dramaâÄù and asked if the questions are âÄúeven relevant.âÄù The investigation created fear and distrust in her family, she said. Feeling hopeless and helpless, the student said âÄúthey should not be chasing after me to solve their mystery.âÄù

FBI questions a mosque

Abubakar As-Saddiq mosque attendee Abdinasser Hussein admits some of the men who left used to pray and participate in Islamic programs in the mosque. Because of this, many said, the reputations of the mosque are now in jeopardy. But âÄúmosques donâÄôt have memberships unlike churches,âÄù Hussein said, âÄúit is open for all Muslims. We donâÄôt determine who will do what when theyâÄôre out of the mosque.âÄù Speculations about the missing youths revolve around the Somali community in Minnesota. Some say the young men left from the Twin Cities to fight side-by-side with the Islamists who arose to revolutionize the Ethiopian-backed transitional Somali government, which has just been replaced by a new government that agreed to rule the country with the Sharia Law. Some Minnesotans think the disappearance of the young men has been exaggerated. None can prove they disappeared. But if the case of their disappearance is really fighting in Somalia with Ethiopia, that should not be interpreted as having terrorist links, some in the community said. They conclude that just like any other patriots, the men stood up to liberate their country. âÄúThe country was invaded by a historic enemy [Ethiopia ] with U.S. approval,âÄù Peter Erlinder, professor of constitutional criminal law and international humanitarian law at the William Mitchell Law School, said in a previous interview. âÄúThe Somalis whose country was invaded might feel the need to try resist.âÄù However, the FBIâÄôs Wilson said the department is aware of the situation in Somalia and that the recently disappeared Somali men went back home to fight with terrorist troops. Since the former dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, the war-torn country remains without a stable central government. Since then, the country became a field for rival factions to fight, bringing killing, dislocation and starvation for thousands of Somali people. Despite the disorder and anarchy, Somalia âÄî a Muslim nation âÄî has united in times of interference from other nations. Three years ago an Islamic group emerged to confront the invasion of Ethiopian troops, which came to the country with the approval of the former transitional government. Authorities say the disappeared men joined in that movement.