Nearly a Dozen 'Minnesota Martyrs' Fighting With ISIS

Radicalized: This picture tweeted earlier this year by journalist Mukhtar Ibrahim shows Abdirahmaan Muhumed, a Minnesota man recruited by ISIS terrorists to fight in Syria.

Radicalized: This picture tweeted earlier this year by journalist Mukhtar Ibrahim shows Abdirahmaan Muhumed, a Minnesota man recruited by ISIS terrorists to fight in Syria.

It has emerged that almost a dozen Minnesotans have left the Midwestern state to take up arms for Islamic extremist groups in the country.

The revelation follows the news that two Minnesota men were killed fighting for ISIS in Syria this past weekend. The White House confirmed that Douglas McArthur McCain, 33, who went to high school in Minneapolis, died while fighting Free Syrian Army rebels in Syria with the Islamic State.

A Minneapolis father-of-nine, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, 29, has been confirmed as the second American jihadi to die fighting for ISIS in Syria. 

They are among almost a dozen Minnesotans out of the estimated 100 Americans who have joined the fighting in Syria.

The FBI's Chief Division Counsel in Minneapolis, Kyle Loven, told ABC News that the phenomenon began in 2007, with Somali-Americans from the state traveling to Somalia.

'In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call... [but] we’ve now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them,' Loven told ABC.

One of those initial recruits was Troy Kastigar, a high school friend of McCain who died in bloody fighting in 2009.

Minnesota's martyrs come from diverse backgrounds - some Muslim, others Christan, some migrants and others born-and-raised Americans - but often have one thing in common: no direction.

For those lost, disaffected youths, extremist groups offer an exciting destination to those going nowhere in life.

The mother of Kastigar, who also knew McCain, said the young men were particularly susceptible.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, she described both young men as 'sort of searching.'

'I think both of them had a really strong desire to be needed and (be) of value,' she said. 

Mohamud Noor, a Minneapolis community leader, concurred.

'They are young men who are vulnerable, who have been taken advantage of because of their situation,' Noor told ABC.

'This is a youth who has lost direction, who has no hope in life, and the only way they can find [it] is to find other means of living.'

In a recruiting video aimed especially at Minnesotans recorded before his death, Kastigar, a Native American, exhorted others to join him in Syria.

'This is the best place to be, honestly,' he said, gripping a gun and grinning goofily, one of his front teeth missing.

'I can only tell you that you have the best of dreams, you eat the best of food, and you are with the best of brothers and sisters who came here for the sake of Allah. If you guys only knew how much fun we have over here. This is the real Disneyland. You need to come here and join us.'

The video, entitled Minnesota’s Martyrs: The Path to Paradise, was reportedly released by Islamist group al-Shabaab.

The New York Times reports that the FBI's psychological analysts at Quantico in Virginia are heavily monitoring the activities of American citizens who have expressed extreme views online.

But according to Abdirizak Bihi, the director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, young women from Minneapolis's Somalian community are still being recruited to support Islamic militants in Syria.

'As recently as a week ago, a young girl was recruited along some others, and was sent to Syria and called her family from Syria a couple days ago,' he said.

Minnesota, mainly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, is home to the largest Somali community in the United States, including people who fled the long civil war in their east African country and children born in the United States. Many are now American citizens.

Al-Shabaab's initial recruitment efforts began in 2007 when small groups began discussing returning home to fight Ethiopian troops who entered Somalia to prop up a weak U.N.-backed government and were seen by many Somalis as foreign invaders. The recruiters aimed their appeal at the young men's patriotic and religious ideals.

Even after Ethiopians were expelled from Somalia, al-Shabab continued to target young men frustrated with life in the West, luring them with propaganda videos that glorify jihad and martyrdom. A high-quality video that began circulating last month featured what it said were three Minneapolis men who were killed in Somalia.

According to Valentina Soria, a security analyst with London-based IHS Jane's, al-Shabab has increasingly focused in the past three years on the recruitment of western nationals and members of the Somali diaspora in the U.S. and Europe to offset its declining domestic support.

As much of a concern as it is that young Americans are dying abroad for extremist groups, of even greater worry is that the recruits will return home and commit acts of terrorism on American soil.



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