ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Somali woman in St. Paul has identified a man thought to have been involved in a recent suicide bombing in Somalia as her stepson, Farah Mohamed Beledi — a 27-year-old who she said was a good kid until he got involved with the wrong crowd.
Mumina Roba looked at a picture of an alleged bomber Tuesday and said through an interpreter: "It is him."
Authorities are still working to positively identify those involved in last Monday's bombing that killed two African Union troops and one government soldier in Mogadishu. The terror group al-Shabab said last week that the bomber was Abdullahi Ahmed, 25, of Minneapolis. Neither name has been confirmed by authorities.
Abdifatah Abdinur, a community leader in Rochester, Minn., who is currently working in Somalia as the spokesman for that country's Ministry of Information, said there were actually two suicide bombers who tried to enter the base while shooting. One was shot by soldiers before he detonated his bomb, the other set off his explosive.
"They were trying to force themselves inside the building, by shooting first, going inside the building and doing their mission," Abdinur said.
He said authorities in Somalia also were still trying to confirm the bombers' identities.
Omar Jamal, first secretary for the Somali mission to the United Nations, provided a picture of one of the alleged bombers to The Associated Press. Jamal said he got it from officials in Mogadishu. The man's face is splattered with blood and what appears to be shrapnel.
Roba looked at the picture and said it was Beledi, but she had a hard time believing he would carry out a suicide attack. She said he was brainwashed in Minnesota and had no travel documents of his own. She said she wants authorities to find the people who recruited him and helped him leave the country.
"He was not exploding or suicide himself, but he was forced to do this. It was not his choice, but he was taken by others," Roba said through the interpreter. "He's gone. He's not coming back."
Beledi is among the more than 20 men who left Minnesota in recent years, possibly to fight with al-Shabab in Somalia.
Court documents show he left in October 2009 — one of five people in a rental car that made a trip from Minnesota to the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro. Documents suggest Beledi and at least one other man — Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax — crossed the border and eventually made their way to Somalia.
Minnesota has been the center of a federal investigation into the travels of young men who left the U.S. to join the jihad in Somalia. Nineteen people have been charged in Minnesota in connection with the travelers and alleged terror financing. Others have been charged in San Diego and St. Louis with funneling money to the terror group.
Beledi was among those charged in Minnesota. He was indicted last July on six counts, including providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Roba said she arrived in the U.S. with Beledi in 1996, when he was 12. She said his father is dead, and his mother lives in Ethiopia. She said Beledi was left with her before the civil war in Somalia began and was among several "orphans" she eventually brought to the U.S. from Nairobi.
"I brought him up," she said. "I raised him."
She said she, Beledi and others spent time in Philadelphia, then moved to Minnesota.
She became emotional when she talked about how Beledi was a good kid and was good to her, but got involved with the wrong people.
"He was not bad," she said, then paused to collect herself and wipe her eyes with a tissue. "He was taken by gangs, but he was good."
Beledi has a court record that shows several convictions, including disorderly conduct, a hit-and-run, trespassing and possession of a pistol without a permit. In 2007, he was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon and sentenced to more than two years in prison. According to that criminal complaint, he stabbed a man in the neck and in the side at a high school stadium.
Roba said Beledi was seeking revenge after a group of boys beat him up a few days earlier in a dispute over a girl.
But she also said Beledi left her when he turned 18, and she wasn't sure where he had been living. She said she hasn't talked to him since his arrest and, because she is in poor health, did not visit him in prison.
"Every time I tried to contact him, I was told he had no phone," she said.
Roba said family members learned of Beledi's death in a phone call from relatives in Nairobi. She said she has not spoken with the FBI about the case, but she feels that from his gang activity to his alleged activity with al-Shabab, Beledi has long been "taken" by "bad people."