MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A small Minneapolis-based youth group is taking on one of the world’s leading terrorist groups.
Al-Shabab is an Al-Qaeda-linked terror organization that has successfully recruited more than a dozen young Twin Cities men to join in their fight. It’s also the group behind the deadly siege at a shopping center in Kenya last year.
Al-Shabab uses Internet videos to convince Minnesota men to come back to Somalia.
But now, a Somali youth group is fighting back with a documentary of their own.
“Somebody has to step up. Somebody has to take the leadership in terms of going against the cancerous ideology that these folks promote,” Mohamed Farah, Ka Joog’s executive director, said.
Until recently, their group, called Ka Joog, was best known for programs like its youth camps for Minnesota’s growing Somali population. But the group’s concern about Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab peaked this summer when the terror group released a documentary called “The Minnesota Martyrs.”
The documentary glorifies the story of two men who left Minnesota and died fighting for Al-Shabab.
“In terms of Al-Shabab, they will not stop in terms of engaging Americans,” Farah said.
The Ka Joog members say the Al-Shabab documentary is part of an aggressive effort on social media to recruit young Somalis in both East Africa and here in Minnesota.
“What Al-Shebab is saying — what Al-Qaeda is saying — is not the true religion of Islam,” Ka Joog Director Haji Yussuf said.
So, last month Ka Joog flew from Minneapolis to the refugee camps in Kenya that house half a million displaced Somalis — and are one of the strongholds of Al-Shabab.
“This is where they get their foot soldiers,” Farah said.
It was a dangerous mission.
“We were definitely really scared. We were not at a location for more than 24 hours,” Farah said.
It was also a journey back to their roots. As children, they all had lived in similar camps.
“It was very emotional for me to go back and to see some of the younger people,” Farah said.
“They cried. They were surprised and said we were the first Somali youth group organization to ever come back,” Ka Joog Vice President Daud Mohamed said.
The men say young refugees are offered cash to join and are promised they will become martyrs.
“We are trying to counter them at their own level, so we are going to get Islamic scholars, people who are very well-versed in our religion, to point out weakness in their argument,” Yussuf said.
They are hoping through social media, their documentary and their message will reach potential Al-Shabab recruits everywhere.
“Their goal is recruiting more western youth, you know, American and UK as well. We have to be a step ahead,” Farah said.
Later this week, Ka Joog will brief congressional leaders, including Rep. Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Keith Ellison.
The documentary is still being edited and will premiere at Ka Joog’s seventh anniversary party later this month.