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U.S. says men ran terror network
Court documents unsealed Monday say the group that left Minnesota in December 2007 purportedly went to training camps in southern Somalia, where the young men met dozens of other Somali youths from the United States and other countries. They received military-style training in using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades from Somali, Arab and Western instructors, the documents state.
U.S. officials said this fall that one key trainer included Saleh Ali Nabhan, 30, a liaison to al-Qaeda in Pakistan who was wanted for his role in the 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa. He was killed in a U.S. helicopter raid Sept. 14. In documents released Monday, U.S. officials said recruits were purportedly "indoctrinated with anti-Ethiopian, anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western beliefs."
One long-term concern will be what returning fighters do with their training, analysts said.
"We still don't know how deep this well is," Hoffman said. "Initially, it was described as people going over purely for patriotic motives, but now we're seeing there is much more of a core jihad curriculum."
Since the departures, U.S. officials have reached out to the Somali American community, estimated at up to 200,000 foreign-born residents and their relatives. Officials are concerned that decades of political strife in Somalia and a recent influx of younger, poorer immigrants could make them vulnerable to radical appeals.
Officials praised the cooperation they have received in their investigation of al-Shabab.
"The sole focus of our efforts in this matter has been the criminal conduct of a small number of mainly Somali American individuals and not the broader Somali American community itself, which has consistently expressed deep concern about this pattern of recruitment activity in support of al-Shabab," said Ralph S. Boelter, special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis field office.
"The sad reality is that the vibrant Somali community here in Minneapolis has lost many of its sons to fighting in Somalia," said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. "These young men have been recruited to fight in a foreign war by individuals and groups using violence against government troops and civilians."