MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Extremist groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS have recruited more than two dozen fighters from Minnesota.
Now the federal government is stepping in to try and help stop those recruitment efforts.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was at Minneapolis’ Brian Coyle Community Center Friday to meet with local and state law enforcement, as well as community leaders. They’re trying to come up with ways to counter violent extremism in the Twin Cities.
“We have to offer people an alternative narrative, an alternative message and develop that,” Johnson said.
He says part of that development is a pilot program that will invest in community engagement resources in Minneapolis.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger was also at Friday’s meeting.
“That doesn’t just involve talking about the problems, but also begins to working on solutions,” Lugar said.
Johnson also proposed asking for more information from travelers in the Visa Waiver Program, which doesn’t require them to have a visa to come to the U.S.
He also wants to take into consideration concerns from Somali Americans about security profiling at U.S. airports.
“There’s definitely a distinction to be made there,” Johnson said. “We don’t want people to be overly suspicious of their neighbors.”
He says national concern starts at the local level, with members in and outside the Somali-American community getting involved before someone heads toward recruitment.
Brian Coyle Center Director Amano Dube says he hopes talk turns into action.
“The community can do better but we need support, resource,” Dube said. “It’s not [that] we need somebody who brings different knowledge from outside or the government, but they need to be resourced so the community can do better.”
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the country. No timeline has been set on when that pilot program will start.
Boston and Los Angeles will also have help from federal officials to create community engagement programs.