Activists working to combat terror gangs' recruitment of young men from Minnesota's Somali community are worried the recent death of an American fighting for ISIS in Syria will tarnish their community's reputation. "It's a very sad time for the community because this issue the community has been trying to eliminate keeps coming back over and over again," said Mohammad Farrah, director of a youth outreach organization called Ka-Joog. "There are a few bad apples that are within our community…this does hurt the image of our community."
The community workers say militants from Al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and now the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham target the disenfranchised in Minnesota's Somali population, which is the largest in the country. Douglas McAuthur McCain's cousin told NBC News that before he died on a battlefield overseas, he was converted to Islam after meeting some Somalis. McCain's Minnesota high-school classmate, Troy Kastigar, also had ties to the Somali community before he converted, joined Al-Shabaab and was killed in battle in 2009.
"These few individuals are the ones who fall into the cracks," Farrah said, saying job-training, after-school programs and other resources are sorely needed to stop Minnesota's most vulnerable youth from winding up easy prey for terrorists who use social media to promise brotherhood and glory. Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, said his 17-year-old nephew was killed in 2009 after leaving the U.S. to fight abroad with a group of other "brainwashed" young men. He noted, however, that the death of McCain makes it clear that recruiters are casting wide net. "Somali Americans are not the only people who are being recruited," he said.
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— Ron Allen