MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A key terror leader known for trying to incite violence against the U.S. here in the Twin Cities and around the world has been killed.
A joint CIA and U.S. military air strike took out Anwar al-Awlaki’s convoy in Yemen early Friday.
The radical cleric was a U.S. citizen born in New Mexico who helped lead a branch of the al-Qaeda network. Awlaki was behind the attempted bombing of an airplane on Christmas day in 2009. He also is believed to have influenced the Fort Hood massacre.
Awlaki’s death is considered the most significant since the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
About half a dozen organizations working within the Somalia American community here in the Twin Cities have been meeting for months, trying to figure out how to stop the spread of Al-Awlaki’s messages of hate.
Community leaders said these messages played a role in the recruitment of young men from Minneapolis, who went to fight Jihad in Somalia.
“Six hundred al-Shabaab members just went to Yemen about a month ago,” said Somali Community Activist Abdiriziak Bihi.
Bihi said he and others in the Somali American community have been tracking the impact Anwar Al Awlaki’s teachings have had on the younger generation.
“He preyed on those kids who have never had a mentor in their lives who are confused about their identity,” Bihi said.
Bihi feels-Awlaki’s recordings, his written articles, are behind the radicalization of young men in Minneapolis who left the country to fight in Somalia.
“His tapes were kind of inspiration not for every kid but for kids who have been radicalized,” said Bihi.
Bihi knows first-hand how the U.S. born cleric could inspire young people in the wrong way.
His nephew, 17-year-old Burhan Hassan, was one of almost two dozen young men who left the U.S. to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Hassan was killed in Mogadishu in June of 2009.
“Locally he was radicalized brain washed like the rest of the kids not only here but in Europe and then al Awlaki comes in to hammer the message it’s like graduate status for radicalization,” Bihi said.
Bihi said Al-Awlaki teachings were like a grad course on terror. His nephew and others subscribed to his teachings and lost their lives.
“It’s not going to happen again here in Minnesota or anywhere else in the United States,” said Faysan Omar, executive director of Somalia Friendship Association.
That’s why Bihi and others will continue to arm young people with information that will open them up to opportunities their new homeland has for them.
Bihi said he will spend most of this weekend contacting parents of the missing young men from Minneapolis, Denmark and Europe to let them know Al-Awlaki is out of the picture.
He hopes they will be as thrilled as he is that this influence is no longer a factor.