Update later on Sunday: Jerry Gordon at New English Review has a more detailed analysis of the NYT Somali story and calls for Senate Homeland Security Committee to reopen hearings on Al-Shabaab, here. Ann has more commentary here.
Today’s New York Times has a huge story, A Call to Jihad, Answered in America, about the young Somali men from Minneapolis who went to Somalia to join Al Shabaab, the militant Muslim group. The article, by Andrea Elliott (whose beat seems to be Muslims in America), takes up most of the top half of the front page and continued onto two full inside pages. It’s written in the modern journalistic style that takes a while to get to the point, but it’s got a lot of good information. Of course, Ann could have told you much of it a long time ago.
It looks like a story prepared at length and in detail. As it says,
An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with close friends and relatives of the men, law enforcement officials and lawyers, as well as access to live phone calls and Facebook messages between the men and their friends in the United States, reveals how a far-flung jihadist movement found a foothold in America’s heartland.
She covers the FBI investigation, apparently using the main investigator, Ralph S. Boelter, as her source. Some excerpts from that section:
In the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Somalis had remained largely under the law enforcement radar while other Muslim immigrants — primarily Arabs and South Asians — experienced the brunt of the raids and scrutiny. While federal investigators had tracked the movements of American recruits to the Shabaab since at least early 2008, the F.B.I.’s case did not swing into high gear until after Shirwa Ahmed’s suicide attack that fall.
….As the inquiry wore on, community leaders say, more than 50 people were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Minneapolis and another jury was convened in San Diego. In April, F.B.I. agents raided three Somali money wiring businesses in Minneapolis. By then, the investigation had expanded to smaller Somali communities in Boston; Seattle; Portland, Me.; and Columbus, Ohio.
….Mr. Boelter tried to counter the negative attention by appearing on Somali television and radio, encouraging people to cooperate with investigators. Yet he has revealed little about the case itself. The scope and intensity of the investigation, he said, is merely commensurate to the danger posed by the men.
“If American citizens are joining the Shabaab, the potential threat domestically is serious,” Mr. Boelter said. “I think they could be commissioned to come back. Or they could do it on their own because they are philosophically aligned with the Shabaab or Al Qaeda.”
There’s almost nothing about the disagreements within the Somali community in Minneapolis. Just this:
The tension in the community has turned inward at times. Last March, the uncle of Burhan Hassan, the boy known as Little Bashir, testified at a Congressional hearing on the case that the mosque had been “brainwashing” the young men and had possibly raised money for the Shabaab.
The mosque’s leaders denied this, in turn accusing the family and others of shirking responsibility for their own children. “That’s their obligation, to know where their kids are going,” said Omar Hurre, the mosque’s executive director.
I wonder if Andrea Elliott knows about the involvement of CAIR and the gutsy opposition to CAIR among the Minneapolis Somalis, and didn’t want to report on it, or if she doesn’t know. It’s an important development but mainstream media and other institutions are pretty wary of offending CAIR. We’ll try to find out more about that.
Previous posts on the Minneapolis Somalis are here.