As many as 15 Somali-American men have left their homes in Minnesota in recent months to travel to the Middle East and join up with ISIS, the jihadist army at war with Syria and Iraq, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
The fighters appear to have made the decision to go fight with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant while the terror group was fighting to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, but some may now be in Iraq, where the marauding group is seeking to topple Baghdad.
"A Muslim has to stand up for [what's] right," Abdirahmaan Muhumed told MPR News through a series of Facebook messages dating back to the beginning of the year. "I give up this worldly life for Allah."
ISIS, an Iraq-based, Al Qaeda-linked terror group, poured into Syria as rebels known as the Free Syrian Army fought to overthrow Assad. But ISIS’s ferocious brutality, especially toward Christians, quickly caused a rift with the Syrian rebels. Now, the group appears bent on establishing an Islalamic caliphate, or nation under strict Islamic law, spanning the two nations.
Among Minnesota’s thriving Somali community, Muhumed's transformation from ordinary life in Minneapolis to Middle East jihadist is evidence of a strong recruitment and radicalization effort.
“Most of [those who left] don't have the resources to even buy a ticket to go to Chicago. So that means there is some influential individuals who are taking advantage of our youth," Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, told MPR. "So it's up to us to defend ourselves. This is not only a fight for our youth. It is a fight for our future."
It is against the law for Americans to independently travel overseas to fight in civil wars or armed conflicts against foreign governments. FoxNews.com has written about Americans who went to join the war in Syria in the past, including Eric Harroun, a onetime U.S. Army soldier from Arizona.
After FoxNews.com interviewed Harroun from the battlefield, he traveled back to the U.S., where he was arrested in June 2013. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was released, then died of an apparent overdose in April.
FBI officials in Minneapolis told MPR News that as many as 15 Somali-Americans left for Syria in recent months, and that the agency is investigating.
Somali-Americans left Minnesota in previous years to fight in their homeland, but friends and family told MPR they don’t understand why the men would go to a place to which they have no connection.
"It was really hard for me to believe because the guy seemed he was busy with his own life, trying to make it," Abdinasir Mohamed, a friend of Muhumed, told MPR. "And [for] him to leave his family and kids, and just go to the other side of the world, that was really surprising to me. I've not really expected him to do that type of move."
Muhumed said in Facebook messages that ISIS is "trying to bring back the khilaafa," a reference to an Islamic empire. He also said "Allah loves those who fight for his cause."
The report also cites the case of Abdi Mohamud Nur, a 20-year-old Somali man from Minneapolis. Nur's sister, Ifrah, told Voice of America on June 1 that her brother also went to Syria to fight with ISIS.
FBI investigators aim to discover who is recruiting the Minnesota men, said Kyle Loven, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis.
"It is something that we have seen in this division, and it is something that we are actively working with the Somali community here in Minnesota to try to prevent," Loven said.