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Minnesota / Somali men were stopped for speeding, prosecutors contend
update on Minnesota / Somali men were stopped for speeding, prosecutors contend
man who blew himself up in a suicide bombing in Somalia this week was a Twin Cities man under indictment for aiding terrorists, an
Federal authorities are trying to confirm the identity of a suicide bomber they say carried out a deadly attack in Somalia after a militant group claimed Thursday that the man was a Somali-American from Minnesota. The group al-Shabab said 25-year-old Abdullahi Ahmed of Minneapolis, pictured here, bombed the African Union base in Mogadishu on Monday, killing two AU troops and a government soldier. Photo courtesy Fox 9 News.
official with that country's U.N. mission said Thursday.
The attack in the capital of Mogadishu on Monday, which killed three African Union soldiers, was carried out by Abdullahi Ahmed, 25, of Minneapolis, according to the website of al-Shabaab, the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Omar Jamal, first secretary of the Somali mission to the U.N., said the man was actually named Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, 34, of Bloomington, who was among a group of men indicted last year for conspiracy to aid al-Shabaab, a group the U.S. State Department says engages in terrorism and is linked to al-Qaida.
"They are the same person," Jamal said Thursday at a news conference in St. Paul. He said that for many Somali parents in the Twin Cities, the bombing raised the specter that their children would be drawn to fight overseas.
"Young kids are still lured from Minneapolis, the United States, Europe, back into harm's way in Somalia," he said.
U.S. officials could not or would not confirm that Ahmed and Faarax are the same. Special Agent Steve Warfield, spokesman for the FBI's Minneapolis office, said investigators didn't yet know the bomber's identity.
"It's all speculation at this point who this guy was," he said.
Jamal was sure the two men were the same. He said that in Somali culture, it is not unusual to leave off the last name. Also, he said the men had the same first name, and that the apparent differences - "Abdullahi" vs. "Cabdulaahi" - stemmed from how the name is translated from its Somali spelling (which starts with a "C") and its English spelling.
Jamal also said the discrepancy in age between the two wasn't troubling because many Somalis don't know the date or even year they were born. "We don't pay much attention to the age," he said.
Before taking his post at the U.N., Jamal was director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul and was, at times, the target of criticism from some in the local Somali community who felt he did not represent their views. He said that he met Ahmed years ago and that the man drove a taxi and had been in the U.S. for about nine years.
He described Ahmed as "very, very, very religious and very committed" to his beliefs.
"We debated several times. He thought I was misguided" about Somalia, Jamal said.
He insisted he was sure Ahmed and Faarax were the same man.
"All we have is the press release, information from Somalia and Kenya and the (audio) tape," he said. "Combine all these things together and it's the same guy."
Faarax is a fugitive, as are nine of the 17 other men and two women who have been charged in the exodus of young Somali men from the Twin Cities.
The FBI says each played a role in an effort to recruit, fund or help Somali-Americans to return to Africa and fight for al-Shabaab.
The Twin Cities has this country's largest concentration Somali immigrants.
The FBI believes that 20 or more Somali-Americans left the Twin Cities to fight for al-Shabaab, which seeks to defeat a U.N.-backed transitional government set up after a coup threw the East African nation into chaos. (Somalia has had no fully functioning national government since 1991.)
That government had called in troops from neighboring Ethiopia to help retake Mogadishu after it fell to al-Shabaab. But many Somalis viewed the Ethiopians as invaders, and al-Shabaab used that to recruit members, particularly among the young.
In March 2010, Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs, said that the Somali men recruited in this country weren't fighting any U.S. policy in Somalia, and that "it's very clear that they went back for Somali nationalistic reasons. They went back to fight Ethiopians. ..."
The Ethiopian troops pulled out in January 2009.
Before Monday's attack on an African Union peacekeeping base in Mogadishu, officials had said that Shirwa Ahmed, 26, of Minneapolis died in a suicide bombing in October 2008.
In addition to Shirwa Ahmed, two other young men from Minnesota have been confirmed dead by relatives. The family of Burhan Hassan, 20, said they learned in June 2009 that he was killed in Mogadishu and buried there. The family of Jamal Sheikh Bana, 20, learned of his death that same year after they found a picture of his body online.
In Monday's explosion, the man can be heard in an audiotape made before the attack and while it was in progress, said Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Somali-born Canadian who spends time monitoring al-Shabaab's website and other Internet sources from the region.
Mohamed, who lives in Toronto, has himself fought for al-Shabaab in Somalia, but says he has since rejected the group's extremism and violence.
"Ahmed passed a farewell message about 10 minutes prior to departure," Mohamed said. In the audio - which ends with the explosion that killed the bomber and three others - the man can be heard "saying something like 'die like lions, join the jihad,'" he added.
The man federal officials call Faarax was one of 10 men named in an indictment last July that accused them of conspiracy, aiding and abetting, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
He was identified as the driver of a car that was stopped by Nevada state troopers in October 2009. When the troopers discovered Faarax was on a terrorist watch list, they contacted the FBI, who told the troopers that unless there was evidence of illegal activity, they should allow the men to go.
Federal prosecutors claim that two days later, in San Diego, Faarax and two other men crossed the border into Mexico. Their final destination was Somalia, according to federal indictments, criminal complaints and other court filings.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.