ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Dozens of local Somali families gathered at the State Capitol Saturday afternoon, calling for the release of six terror suspects.
They’re calling for the government to stop what they see as attacks against them, and say the suspects were set up.
Six local Somalis were charged this week with trying to leave the country to join the terrorist group. These four men were taken into custody in Minneapolis a week ago. Two others were arrested in San Diego.
Federal agents also arrested Mahamed Said for allegedly making threats on Twitter in response to the arrests. One tweet from his account said if the men weren’t freed, there would be a “massacre.” Another message said “Best believe I’m gonna kill for those guys if they don’t free my brothers.”
The leadership and families at Saturday’s rally denounced any retaliation because of the arrests and asked for the public to hold judgment until their sons are found guilty or not guilty.
About 100 people turned out at the State Capitol, including three mothers of four of the men arrested. One of them made remarks saying she doesn’t believe her sons are terrorists.
A Somali community advocate says the community has agreed to peacefully protest the government and the confidential informant prosecutors built much of their case around.
Abdullahi Salim helped lead the protest. He says he’s a friend of all the arrested suspects, and can’t believe they could be involved.
“I grew up here with them,” Salim said. “I was not expecting them to be criticized as terrorists.”
Salim also says the suspects’ character was never in question for him.
“These guys are really, really, really helpful guys,” he said. “Whenever you need help, they’re the first guys you call for help.”
Community organizers say they want to sit down with lawmakers and talk about programs to help Somali youth prosper and not be drawn into recruiting.