A 20-year-old man believed by his family to have been killed in his native Somalia "had no clue" what the country was really like when he left his home in Minneapolis to fight there, his mother said Sunday.
Abayte Ahmed said through an interpreter Sunday that she and her husband, who live in Minneapolis, identified their son, Jamal Bana, in a photo on a Somali news Web site, Dayniile.com, showing a dead body in Somalia. Bana's father saw the photo Saturday morning during his daily check of news reports on the fighting in that country.
Bana was among a group of up to 20 young Somali men who left Minneapolis in recent years — disappearances under investigation by the FBI out of suspicion they were recruited by a radical Islamic terror group to fight in their homeland. Ahmed said her son disappeared from Minneapolis on Nov. 4.
On Saturday, Minneapolis FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson said he could not confirm Bana's death. He declined to comment further on Sunday.
Family members, who spoke to the media Sunday afternoon outside the south Minneapolis home where Bana grew up, said they had no doubt he was killed. After seeing the photo, family members said they spoke by phone to sources in Europe and Somalia who were able to confirm the death. The family did not identify the sources.
'My son had no clue'
It wasn't clear exactly when Bana died, but the family believes it happened Friday, said Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali activist who spoke with Bana's family.
On Sunday, Ahmed wept through much of the news conference. Her remarks were interpreted by Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, home to the largest Somali population in the United States.
"My son had no clue about Somalia," Ahmed said, without elaborating.
Somalia's last functioning government was overthrown in 1991, and since then the country has been fought over by packs of warlords. Ahmed said her son was only a year old when she and her husband left Somalia for the United States.
She said she heard from her son only once since he disappeared — a brief call on Nov. 15 in which he simply said, "I'm in Somalia" before hanging up.
She described her son as kind and said he had helped take care of his six younger siblings.
"Somebody must have put something in his mind," Ahmed said through Jamal. "He must have been disillusioned, indoctrinated."
FBI investigating disappearances
Another young Somali man from Minneapolis, Shirwa Ahmed, is believed to have carried out a suicide bombing last October as part of a series of coordinated attacks that targeted a U.N. compound, the Ethiopian consulate and the presidential palace in Hargeisa, capital of the Somaliland region. FBI Director Robert Mueller said in February that the bomber had probably been "radicalized" in the Twin Cities.
In June, the Minneapolis family of another young Somali, Burhan Hassan, said they believed he had been killed and buried in Somalia.
The FBI has acknowledged its ongoing investigation into the disappearances but won't elaborate.