Washington – More than 40 Americans have been recruited and radicalized by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Somalia and have gone to the war-torn country to fight, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says.
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, plans to outline the findings of his committee's own investigation Wednesday during the third hearing in a series on Muslim radicalization in the U.S.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have not confirmed such high numbers of Americans joining the Somali terror organization, al-Shabab. The government has said at least 21 Americans are believed to have traveled to Somalia to join the terror group in what began as a push to expel Ethiopian soldiers, and some of those young men have died in the fight. Al-Shabab has expanded its focus over the years, and it has aligned itself with other anti-Western terror groups.
Republican staff on the Homeland Security Committee also found that more than 20 Canadians had been recruited and radicalized and joined the fight in Somalia.
Canadian police have said several Somali youths from the Toronto area are suspected to have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab.
In his prepared opening remarks, obtained by The Associated Press, King said al-Shabab is "engaged in an ongoing, successful effort to recruit and radicalize dozens of Muslim-American jihadis, who pose a direct threat to the U.S."
King said al-Shabab is not just a Somali problem -- the organization has a large cadre of American jihadis and ties to al-Qaeda, particularly the terrorist group's Yemen branch.
"We must face the reality that al-Shabab is a growing threat to our homeland," King said.
King has been criticized for unfairly singling out Muslims in his series of hearings over the past few months on Islamic radicalization in the U.S. Some of those who oppose King's hearings have said that the committee should also focus on the threat posed by other types of extremism, including right-wing extremism in the U.S., particularly as that ideology appeared to motivate the man accused in the recent deadly attacks in Norway.