This is an update of the story we posted here three weeks ago about the arrest of four Somalis in San Diego (including the local imam) who are charged with aiding the terrorist group Al-shabab.
SAN DIEGO — Despite scores of FBI intercepts, many local Somalis think the government’s case against four area San Diegans is fabricated and believe their community remains caught in the crosshairs of 9/11.
“There’s no Somali that I know today who supports al-Shabab,” said Mohamed Mohamed, a local Somali college student.
But in court papers, federal prosecutors say at least one of the accused men — Basaaly Moalin — had ties with top-ranking al-Shabab figures including Ayden Hashi Ayrow, the founder of al-Shabab which is trying to topple the weak central government in Somalia.
International Rescue Committee spokesman says undue pressure put on Somali “community” by authorities.
College student Yusuf Ali questions how the Imam, who counseled the community’s youth on the importance of education and Islam, could support al-Shabaab — a brutal group infamous for cutting off people’s hands and beheadings.
“He was my mentor. He used to tell me, `stay in school, stay away from drugs, study.’ He was teaching me my religion. He never taught me any violence. I was with him for 10 years. I never saw him doing that stuff.”
When asked if he thought the government was lying, Ali said, “Yeah, I do.”
Edgar Hopida of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says past terrorism cases have fostered that perception. He says the government has accused other American Muslims of having ties to violent Islamist groups but ends up with minor immigration violation convictions.
“So when they saw this come about with one of their local leaders, they saw it as `oh no, here we go again,'” Hopida said.
Many Somalis believe the government is specifically targeting their community.
“There’s a feeling that there’s an undue focus on the Somali community which is unfounded, because until now, there’s really been no wrongdoing in the community,” said Bob Montgomery who runs the International Rescue Committee in San Diego. “People are just struggling to rebuild their lives and all have fled the same terrorism that al-Shabab is doing now.”
Mr. Montgomery is probably worried that the public will ask him why his organization brought so many Somalis to San Diego in the first place.
See more about San Diego here where Somalis and law enforcement begin dialogue.