MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Douglas McCain was not the first Minnesotan radicalized and recruited to fight in a foreign land.
In recent years, Minnesota has become a place where terrorist organizations recruit young people to fight jihad.
The Twin Cities has the largest population in the country of Somalis living outside East Africa. That alone makes this area a target for terrorist organizations and their recruiting efforts.
Groups like ISIS and al-Shabaab are preying on those who feel left out or disconnected from their community.
“Recruitment is still ongoing,” said community activist Omar Jamal. “We are dealing with it almost every day.”
Terrorist organizations like al-Shabaab and ISIS are using tactics that are drawing vulnerable young people to their ranks.
“They target impressionable young kids,” Jamal said, “confused high school drop outs.”
And the recruitment isn’t only done through online videos.
“They seem to have a much more effective public relations with these kids,” Jamal said. “They using all social media.”
Mohamed Farah runs Ka Joog, an organization designed to keep young people away from terrorist groups or gangs. He says that the radicalization process isn’t done over-night.
Farah said there are many underlying issues — high unemployment, lack of education and mentors — that lead to young people to feel lost and wanting more.
“They are missing something in their life, and they’re willing to do anything they can to fill that gap, and it happens to be al-Shabaab, it happens to be ISIS,” Farah said.
And these groups are not just targeting Somali Americans. Terrorists are looking for anyone who rejects Western ideology or those who feel the American Dream is not within their reach.
Terrorist group recruiters do not see race, they see opportunity, Farah said.
He said his organization cannot protect young people alone. Farah believes parents need to monitor their child’s social media activities, and talk with them about recruiters in the community.