MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Officials believe terror groups are still here, recruiting in Minnesota.
A delegation from the state will travel to Washington next week to be part of a summit on countering violent extremism. The goal is to find ways to engage at-risk communities and to stop extremists from recruiting for terror groups. U.S. Attorney Andy Luger is spearheading the effort.
The group will meet with the President and representatives from two other cities to determine best practices.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the country. It’s because of that distinction the Twin Cities is part of a pilot program, along with LA and Boston, aimed at turning around the cycle of recruitment for terror organizations overseas.
“It’s a good news, bad news situation,” Luger said. “The good news is we’re getting the attention we need and the focus and resources. The bad news is we need the resources.”
In August, Douglas McCain, a Robbinsdale Cooper High School graduate, died in Syria fighting for ISIS. Luger says there are more like him, and there are still active recruitment efforts in Minnesota.
At the summit, Luger will present a two-part program to attendees. First, he advocates for community intervention teams so the Somali community has someone to turn to when they spot early warning signs of radicalization.
“The goal there is the earliest signs — community leaders, religious leaders can work with the young man or woman so it never gets to a law enforcement level,” Luger said. “We never hear about it and that would be a real goal.”
The second part of the program is to address the root cause of radicalization by bringing job opportunities, mentors and youth programs to young Somalis.
“Some of the basic crime prevention efforts that have been successful elsewhere, we’re going to bring to this community,” Luger said.
The program was developed with input from the community and fostered by the ongoing relationships between the community and law enforcement.
Luger recognizes there is a long road ahead, but says this summit is the first step towards keeping Somali youth engaged at making a positive impact here in Minnesota.
” We have to turn this around, it’s a problem in our community,” he said. “It appeared in 2007, 2008. It’s back again and we want to break the cycle so we’re not back again in a few years.”
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, and Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau will join Luger in Washington.
Two representatives from the FBI and eight members of the Somali community will also participate in the Summit on Wednesday.