FBI Watching Somali Muslims In Minneapolis

On election night last November, the outcome was wildly celebrated by Somalis living in Minneapolis, 70,000-strong, mostly refugees from their war-torn country. It is the largest Somali community in the United States, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

But the evening was noteworthy for something else, too. That night, the latest in a line of young Somalis who grew up here, departed unannounced for Somalia itself, joining a civil war in a country few had ever seen and causing concern in the United States.

Hussein Samatar's 17-year old nephew left without a word to his family.

"He was an A student," says Samatar. "He has everything to hope for to attend any Ivy League school that he wanted to. Why he would do it is a mystery to us."

Some 20 vanished last year - all American citizens - an exodus the FBI has noticed for a troubling reason.

"A man from Minneapolis became what we believe to be the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing," said agency director Robert Mueller.

The October attack by 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed killed 30 near Mogadishu, and there is alarm that the skills acquired abroad could be brought back to America.

"He could have done it here," says Omar Jamal, a Somali advocate in Minnesota. "We don't see anything that would have prevented him from doing this right here in the heart of Minneapolis."

This much seems clear:

"It appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota," Mueller said.

The missing men all came from one local mosque, according to the FBI. But officials at the mosque deny that they play any role in turning young people into radicals, Reynolds reports.

This week they held an open house to answer critics and confront recent harassment.

"We absolutely deny that such things happen in this mosque," says Omar Hurre, executive director at the Abubakar Islamic Center.

But Somalis here are deeply troubled. Who is behind this exodus? Who is paying for it? And who may be the next to go?
  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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