MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Terror groups remain a top concern for local police, federal authorities and lawmakers.
On Wednesday, the crime subcommittee held a hearing in Washington to examine ISIL, Al-Shabaab and the threat of domestic terrorism.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek was one of two law enforcement officials who testified at the hearing.
Lawmakers said more than 150 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria, and the FBI has arrested more than half a dozen people trying to travel to Syria to possibly join the Islamic State.
Stanek is one of the best people to speak on this issue.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the country and terror groups are looking to the Twin Cities for new recruits.
Just five days ago, the terror group Al-Shabaab released a video naming Mall of America as a potential target, along with shopping centers in Canada and London.
Authorities have since said there is no credible threat against Mall of America.Even those in the Somali-American community believe the video is a desperate attempt for relevance.
Despite that, one lawmaker still had this question for Sheriff Stanek.
Representative Jackson Lee asked Stanek how he uses tools to help prepare if such an attack were to happen.
“We train, we exercise, we plan and prepare incessantly hoping something bad never happens but knowing full well each and every day across this country, world, it does. But, we are prepared,” Stanek said.
Stanek said he’s mostly concerned about young Somali-Americans who cut themselves off from their family and support system.
He said they’re more vulnerable to being recruited by these terror groups.
As WCCO has reported, Minnesota is participating in a pilot program with Boston and Los Angeles to counter terrorism as well as build a trusting relationship with the local Somali community.
After the counter-terrorism hearing, Stanek plans to stay in Washington to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson.
He wants to emphasize the importance of Homeland Security funding since that legislation is currently in limbo.
Stanek says the sheriff’s office and other state agencies rely on that federal money.