By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — There are conflicting reports Monday that Minnesotans may have been among those involved in the attack on the shopping mall in Kenya.

On Sunday, a Twitter account linked to Al Shabaab reported that among the militants who carried out the attack were three Americans, including a 22-year-old man from Minneapolis and a 24-year-old man from St. Paul.

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But Monday there is no confirmation that Minnesotans were involved. And there are reports that the Twitter report was from a fake account.

Now, the Twin Cities Somali community is wondering whether two of its own are actually involved in the Kenyan mall attack that killed 62 people.

The horrifying attack in Kenya was strongly condemned by Muslim leaders at a Minneapolis mosque this afternoon.

“This outrageous act of violence has no place in Islam the perpetrators of this barbaric act do not share our Islamic values,” Imam Abdisalam Adam said.

Several leaders said the names of two the Twin Cities men reported on Twitter do not match the names of any members of the Twin Cities Somali community they know of.
Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the country, making it a recruitment target for terrorist organizations in Somalia. While the majority will not be lured away, there is a small number that have left Minnesota to join that terrorist organization.

A 40-minute video released this past August is an example of a possible Al-Shabab recruitment tool.

Since 2007, the FBI estimates around 20 young Somali men have left Minnesota to join the terror group. The FBI says those men are leaving because some find the videos are appealing to some because they glamorize fighting.

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“That’s something we’ll continue to try to thwart, but that’s a fact of life we have to live with here in law enforcement,” the FBI’s Kyle Loven said.

Preventing this potential pipeline from Minnesota to Somalia is a top priority for federal agents.

“We are particularly interested when we have situations, like obviously in the past, young Somali men have gone missing. And, obviously, that’s important because we want to make certain keep an handle on potential terrorist activities in Somalia that may have occurred or may be occurring,” said Loven.

Law enforcement work very closely with the Somali community through outreach and education, but the FBI admits this is an ongoing challenge.

On Monday, members of Minnesota’s Somali community condemned the attack. Several groups have called a news conference for 2 p.m. Monday in solidarity with the victims and to warn about the dangers of extremism.

Meanwhile, a Somali woman in Minnesota is worrying about two nieces injured in the attacks. Hodan Hassan of Minnetonka says her 17-year-old and 16-year-old nieces were shopping when the attackers struck. She said the older one is in critical condition with severe leg injuries, while the other was not as seriously hurt. She says they’re Canadian citizens who moved to Nairobi three years ago.

Hassan says it would be sad if Somali-Americans were responsible but she doubts it’s true.

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Esme Murphy