Two young Americans who left their homes to join an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia held a rare “press conference” in southern Somalia on Sunday, saying they want to be killed "for the sake of God," according to a U.S. law enforcement official and a report posted on a Somali news Web site.
For several months the FBI has been investigating at least 20 Somali-American men from the Minneapolis area and elsewhere in the United States who traveled to war-torn Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has been warring with the moderate Somali government since 2006.
Last month, a source familiar with the FBI investigation told FOX News that "several" of the men had returned to the United States, while others “are still there [in Somalia]." Sunday was the first time any of these men have spoken publicly.
"We came from the U.S. with a good life and a good education, but we came to fight alongside our brothers of al-Shabaab … to be killed for the sake of God,” one man said at the press conference, as translated by Omar Jamal, the executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
According to the news report, two men, identifying themselves as Abu-Muslim and Abu Yaxye, said they are “Somali youth” from the United States who are now stationed near the city of Kismayo, more than 300 miles southwest of Mogadishu, according to Jamal. The men said they are talking to media for the first time so others can learn why they joined al-Shabaab, he said.
Sources told FOX News there is a video of the press conference.
A spokesman from the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis, E.K. Wilson, said he is “aware of the video,” which he said was first brought to his office’s attention early Sunday.
Wilson would not say whether the FBI has identified the men in the video.
At their press conference, the men did not say exactly how many other U.S. citizens have joined al-Shabaab, but they insisted that “many” Somali-Americans are now “all over Somalia to join the Jihad,” according to Jamal's translation.
“Some of us are still in training, others are on the frontline of the Jihad,” Abu-Muslim said, according to Jamal. “Sadly a few of us are dead, one of whom carried out a suicide bombing.”
In October 2008, Shirwa Ahmed — a 27-year-old college student from Minneapolis — became what the FBI calls “the first known American suicide bomber” when he blew himself up in Somalia, killing dozens.
The men said at their press conference that they want others like Ahmed to fight in Somalia, according to Jamal.
“We are here to invite others to come and join us" said Abu Yaxye, as translated by Jamal.
Asked why any missing Somali-Americans might be speaking out now, Wilson, the FBI spokesman in Minneapolis, said, “We do not want to speculate on the motivation behind it.”
This comes a week after a video featuring another American in Somalia surfaced online.
The video posted last week is a highly polished production with the primary intent of recruiting foreign youth.
It was a "clear appeal to foreign youth, especially in English-speaking countries, to join the jihad in Somalia," according to the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which first provided the video to FOX News.
In the 30-minute video, featuring an anti-American hip-hop score and images of Usama bin Laden, a man dubbed "The American" purportedly leads a group of al-Shabaab militants in an ambush of Ethiopian forces, which oppose an Islamic state and have backed the new Somali government.
“If you can encourage more of your children and more of your neighbors, anyone around, to send people like him to this jihad it would be a great asset for us," the so-called “American” says in the video, which was posted on an Islamist web site.
A law enforcement official confirmed to FOX News that the man, identified in the video as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, is originally from the United States, but said he has been in Somalia “for some time.” The official said the man is in his late 20s or early 30s, and left the United States “many” years ago.
The FBI investigation into how young American men were recruited to join al-Shabaab in Somalia is active in Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Boston; Seattle; and San Diego, according to testimony from counterterrorism officials and others at a Senate hearing last month. But, officials said, there is no intelligence to indicate that Somali-Americans who traveled to Somalia are planning attacks inside the United States.
The source familiar with the FBI investigation would not say publicly if authorities know the whereabouts of the men who returned to the United States, nor would the source say if authorities are pursuing arrests in the case. But Muslim leaders in the Minneapolis area told FOX News that they believe arrests are coming.
“It will be a big relief for the community once this comes to an end,” Jamal said.