MINNEAPOLIS — A member of a Somali-American youth group in Minnesota said Thursday that the federal government should provide resources and assist local groups in the "uphill battle" to prevent young people from being recruited into terrorist organizations like al-Shabab.
Friday, October 04, 2013
Mohamed Farah, president of Ka Joog, testified during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the threat of al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group based in Somalia that has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 mall attack in Kenya that killed at least 67 people.
"The number one issue of our community is the recruitment of our youth," Farah said, according to his prepared testimony. He said al-Shabab has "targeted the disenfranchised, marginalized and socially estranged" youth.
Since 2007, at least 22 young men have left Minnesota to join al-Shabab, including two who left last summer. Ka Joog, which means "stay away," is one group that has been working to provide positive alternatives for Somali youth through education, the arts and mentorship.
Farah said the U.S. has spent billions of dollars fighting terrorism overseas, and some of that money should go toward supporting local efforts to deter youth from becoming radicalized.
"What we've been doing is not enough. We need to do more work. We need to engage more youth," Farah told The Associated Press. "This is a war against a cancerous ideology. And it seems as if we are alone in this."
Seth Jones, with the nonprofit research group RAND Corp., told the committee in Washington that the attack on Westgate Mall is a reminder that al-Shabab is lethal and poses a threat in the region. He said at the moment, al-Shabab does not appear to be plotting an attack on U.S. soil, but Americans should still be concerned, and should be on "high alert" in East Africa.
Don Borelli, a former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Taskforce in New York, testified that the U.S. must take a multifaceted approach to countering al-Shabab's recruiting techniques. He said that includes military pressure and intelligence gathering, but also should include an expanded effort to promote education and critical thinking among would-be recruits.
He said the government should help credible community leaders and groups counter al-Shabab's violent message. He added that al-Shabab should not be viewed as a regional threat, as al-Qaida was in the early 1990s.
"We have seen how a terrorist organization gone unchecked can morph into a global threat," Borelli said in his prepared testimony. "We must not let that happen with al-Shabaab."