MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the three years that government and rebel forces have been battling in Syria, more than 100,000 people have been killed. Many of the deceased are innocent civilians who are cut down by crossfire or suicide bombings.
Beyond those killed and injured are another 2.5 million Syrians who’ve been forced into neighboring refugee camps.
“There’s been a call if you will,” Minneapolis FBI agent Kyle Loven said.
Beginning in 2007, the FBI has been working to stop young Somali men from leaving the Twin Cities to fight for the terror group Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
There’s now evidence that Syrian rebels are recruiting here, too. They are drawn to a fight not over nationalistic pride, but rather religious ideology.
“Unfortunately, disaffected youth are the most prone to these types of messages. When youth have idle time, unfortunately this can be the result,” Loven said.
It happened again this past weekend when a local Somali boy left with a group of 11 others, headed for Syria by way of Turkey.
“It’s about misleading people,” local Somali leader Omar Jamal said. “It’s about ideology and belief and conviction, something bigger than all of us. They are completely brainwashed into believing this cause.”
One group on the offensive is the Minneapolis Somali community group, Ka Joog. Its leaders recently traveled to the refugee camps in Somalia to meet with youth groups. They are producing a documentary film to show to youth in the Twin Cities.
Ka Joog works with young Somali-Americans to develop diversionary programs, giving them positive influences and outlets.
“We try to engage young people well ahead, before they even think about getting into any negative influences or activities,” the group’s Executive Director, Mohammad Farrah, said.
The FBI has a tip line set up to help track and investigate suspected foreign terrorist organization recruitment. The number is 763-569-8020.