Minnesota Somalis react to sentences in al-Shabab case with mix of outrage, relief

MINNEAPOLIS — Wide-ranging sentences handed down in the yearslong federal investigation into recruiting and financing for the terrorist group al-Shabab have kindled a mix of outrage, confusion and relief among members of Minnesota’s large Somali community.

Some say the 10- and 20-year prison sentences for two Minnesota women who sent money to the group were too harsh, especially since two men who traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabab got three years. The attorney for one man sentenced to 20 years in prison has already filed a notice of appeal; more are expected.

Prosecutors have said the men and women were part of a “deadly pipeline,” sending money and men to al-Shabab, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization for its links to al-Qaida and its tactics that include suicide bombings and assassinations. At least 22 men left Minnesota for Somalia since 2007 in what has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters for a foreign terrorist organization.

Last week’s sentences are in line with other al-Shabab-related cases. In New Jersey, two men arrested while trying to board flights to Somalia for a jihad were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison. A southern California woman received eight years for sending money to Minnesota men in Somalia, while a Missouri man received more than 11 years for funding al-Shabab.

Dutch Ministry Figures on Female Circumcision

6 February 2013

 

According to the Dutch Health Ministry, efforts in the Netherlands to eradicate female circumcision are proving effective. While exact figures are unavailable, Pharos research institute estimates some 40-50 girls living in the Netherlands may undergo female circumcision every year, during visits to their country of origin. In total some 30,000 women in the Netherlands have undergone the procedure, usually before arriving in the country. The research showed Somalia and Egypt as the countries of origin in which the practice was most common.

In a statement, Junior Health Minister Martin van Rijn commented, “these remain confrontational figures but the fact the risk to girls who have lived here for some time is low is a good sign.” Female genital mutilation is a criminal offence in the Netherlands, and constitutes child abuse when carried out on underage girls.

Canadian woman runs safe house for Al Qaeda suicide bombers

The Toronto Star – July 12, 2012

 

A Canadian woman at the centre of Somalia’s Al Qaeda is known among the intelligence agencies that track her and the foreign militants who praise her simply as “Mama Shabab.” It is an honorific title for former Toronto resident Fadumo Jama, who intelligence agencies allege is the den mother of al Shabab who runs a safe house for Western fighters recruited into the militant Islamic organization.

While she moves frequently, using forged passports from African countries, it is believed she has operated a home in the Somali town of Merca for at least four years and has supported American and European recruits in the weeks before their suicide bombing missions. Jama is a well-known figure to intelligence agencies in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Somalia, yet her name does not appear in any public documents and she has not been charged. Her role facilitating Western recruits exemplifies the increasing importance of women to the Shabab — although her position of authority is rare, as most females are recruited only as wives for the fighters or suicide bombers. Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden told a Senate committee earlier this year that this was an emerging trend.

Two young Toronto women raised in Canada after their parents fled Somalia when the government collapsed two decades ago were among those reportedly lured into the group last year, defying their families and flying to Kenya’s capital before crossing the border.

Former Al-Shabaab Commander Announces Organization’s Presence in Netherlands

May 28, 2012

 

According to a former commander of the al-Shabaab organization, members of the Somali diaspora in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States are being actively recruited to launch attacks against these countries. The information comes from Mary Harper reporting for the BBC, who spoke to former al-Shabaab member Mohamaed Farah al Ansari. Farah al Ansari has entered a protection program with the interim government of Somalia after ceasing activities with al-Shabaab.

An offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, al-Shabaab’s presence in Somalia consists of approximately 14,000 militants, who oppose “enemies of Islam” and combat the country’s Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission to Somalia.

Dutch Police Use “Disproportional” Force to Dismantle Asylum Seeker Camp

25 May 2012

 

Police intervened to break up an impromptu camp established by failed asylum seekers near Ter Apel, the Netherlands. Riot police arriving in 20 minibuses used force to dismantle the site and arrested about 110 individuals at the site, failed asylum seekers from Iran and Somalia who claim that they will come to harm if returned to their country of origin. A group of Iraqi asylum seekers, involved in the camp’s original set up two weeks ago, had been removed earlier to an apartment complex where they were guaranteed housing until June 15 as the Dutch and Iraqi immigration ministers negotiate next steps.

Meanwhile a judge in Groningen determined that the level of response and force in the deconstruction was “disproportional”. The defended actions claiming that it was a necessary measure due to the health concerns at the impromptu camp.

Former soldier from Md. ordered held on charges that he tried to join terrorist group

GREENBELT, Md. — A former U.S. Army soldier accused of trying to provide support to a terrorist organization in Somalia after he left the military will remain locked up until his trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Connelly rejected defense arguments that Craig Baxam was naïve and impulsive and simply exploring his religion when he left the United States for Somalia last month with the goal of joining al-Shabaab, a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization. He was picked up in neighboring Kenya before he could reach Somalia and was questioned by FBI agents.

Female Muslim Gang Walks Free After Attack as They are “Not Used to Drinking”

6./7.12.2011

A gang of four Muslim women originally from Somalia walked free from court in Leicester last week after they had attacked a young woman in the city centre in June last year. The group of three sisters and a cousin attacked Rhea Page as she waited for a taxi with her boyfriend after a night out. Page suffered kicks to the head, back, arms, and legs and the attackers allegedly screamed “kill the white slag” (The Telegraph). The four women were convicted of causing bodily harm; however, the judge did not consider the attack to be racially motivated and thought none of the four women deserved to serve time in jail. Instead, he delivered six-month suspended jail sentences after hearing that, as Muslims, the women were “not used to being drunk”. He also sentenced the three sisters to 150 hours of community work. Following the court ruling, Page claimed that not jailing the women sent out the wrong message about street violence.

Young Somali Muslims in Toronto drawn to activism

The Globe and Mail – September 23, 2011

 

Famine in their homeland has brought 20 young Canadian-Somalis together to walk 350 kilometres to reach the nation’s capital. They’re bonded by a common goal: to raise money and awareness for a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations estimates has killed tens of thousands of people and threatens, over the next four months, to starve to death 750,000 Somalis.

Walk for Somalia is one of several youth-driven groups that has formed in Toronto in response to the drought, violence and famine ravaging the African country. Long-time community leaders say they’re seeing an unprecedented level of engagement among young Canadian-Somalis, a spirit they hope will eventually be channelled into challenges facing other Somali youth in Toronto.

The UN has declared famine in six regions of south Somalia, which is mainly controlled by Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab. Toronto houses one of the largest Somali populations in North America and Europe. Canada’s official census pegs the Somali population at nearly 38,000, but the Canadian Somali Congress believes the figure actually stands around 200,000, with the majority residing in Toronto.

Former Torontonian calls for revenge of bin Laden death

National Post – May 13, 2011

A former Toronto man who is now a commander of the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab has called for revenge over the killing of Osama bin Laden in an audiotape posted on the Internet. Photos that accompany the recording show Omar Hammami, alias Abu Mansour the American, speaking at an Al-Shabab rally called “We are all Osama” along with other leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked group.The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian father, Hammami, 27, grew up in Alabama and moved in 2004 to Toronto, where he married a Somali-Canadian and was recruited into Islamist extremist ideology. Since arriving in Somalia, he has posted scores of videos on the Internet urging Western Muslim youths to join Al-Shabab, a Taliban-like armed group trying to impose its version of Islamic law on Somalis.
Officials say up to 20 young Canadians have already travelled to Somalia to join Al Shabab, which Canada outlawed as a terrorist organization last year after it began aggressively recruiting Somali-Canadians.

U of T graduate’s arrest on terror charges alarms Toronto Somalis

News Agencies – March 31, 2011

25-year-old Mohamed Hersi who was born in Somalia but moved to Canada as a child, was trying to turn his life around. Despite having a science degree and a job as a security guard, Hersi had grown frustrated with life. He was tired of living in a dilapidated public housing unit near Markham Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. and of watching his mother, a widow who had raised four children alone, struggling to make ends meet. Hersi wanted to go to Egypt to “get the morals I’ve lost.”
Police arrested Hersi without incident Tuesday night at Pearson airport before boarding a plane for London, where he was to catch a connecting flight to the Cairo airport. He had a one-way ticket. His final destination would have been Somalia where Hersi allegedly planned to join Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-inspired movement designated as a terrorist group in the U.S. and Canada.
Hersi’s arrest has sparked fears within the local Somali community that Al Shabaab, an Islamist youth militia, is still recruiting young men. In 2009, six Somali-Canadian men disappeared from the Toronto area and were believed to have joined the group. One died in battle about a year ago.