CBNNews.com - A Senate Homeland Security Committee held hearings today on Capitol Hill to address the growing threat of terrorist recruitment in the U.S.
Several Somali-American young men and teenagers have traveled to Somalia to wage jihad over the past several months--and the fear is that they will return to America and put their new terror skills to use.
Intelligence officials told a panel led by Democrat Joe Lieberman and Republican Susan Collins that the men have joined al-Shabab--an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group that is battling to take control of Somalia. Like Iraq and Afghanistan before it, the lawless country--located in the strategic Horn of Africa--has become a magnet for international jihadists.
"Shabab has linkages to this global Islamist movement, its leadership has linkages to Al Qaeda leadership," testified J. Philip Mudd of the FBI's National Security Branch. "Not only are Americans showing up, we've got Western Europeans--Brits. We had a Brit blow himself up recently in Somalia. We've got Nigerians, Chadians, Malians."
The FBI is currently conducting investigations in several American cities with large Somali populations, including Minneapolis, Seattle, San Diego, Boston, Columbus, Ohio and Portland, Maine.
First Successful American Suicide Bomber
A Minneapolis man, Shirwa Ahmed, became the first successful American suicide bomber when he blew himself up in Northern Somalia in October as part of a coordinated attack that killed 29 people.
FBI director Robert Mueller said recently that the agency believes Ahmed was radicalized in Minneapolis. Several Somali men have disappeared from the city in recent months, and their families suspect that they are currently in Somalia.
"They are traveling on American passports, which enable them to travel rather freely," said Andrew Liepman of the National Counterterrorism Center.
The officials stressed to the panel that only "small cluster" of the Somali-American community is seeking to join al-Shabab. But the men could pose a serious security threat if--and when--they return to America.