The FBI made a string of arrests Sunday, taking a total of six people into custody in Minneapolis and San Diego in a terrorism joint task force operation. The arrests follow an inquiry into young people from the Twin Cities area who have joined terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Shabab.
The men are charged with providing support to ISIS, the group that calls itself the Islamic State. They had planned to travel to Syria to fight for the group, law enforcement officials said Monday.
“These men were intent on going to Syria” to fight for an organization they knew had committed violent acts, said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew M. Luger. He added that they had been making plans for about one year.
Their plan was leaked to the FBI by one young man who had a change of heart.
“We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota,” he sad.
The local U.S. attorney’s office has said that public safety was not under an immediate threat. It seems that all of those arrested are young men whose families are originally from Somalia.
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET: Men Had Planned To Travel To Syria
The men who were arrested in this weekend’s raids had intended to travel to Syria and join violent extremists there, the U.S. attorney’s office says. The six, with ages between 19 and 21, had been recruited by Abdi Nur, a former Minneapolis resident who is believed to have joined ISIS after flying to Turkey last May, officials say.
Those details were presented at a news briefing Monday morning by Luger. He called it a “peer-to-peer” operation that was funded by the men themselves. One used money from his college financial aid and another sold his car, officials say.
“One man who was going to go changed his mind” and told the FBI about the plan, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston reports. She says that the two men in San Diego “were going to get forged passports and intended to slip across the border.”
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From Minnesota Public Radio:
“A Somali woman who said she was the mother of two men who were arrested told MPR News that the FBI arrived at her house around noon. One of her sons was arrested at her house; the other was arrested in San Diego.
“She said more than a dozen FBI and police officers searched her house and confiscated a tablet computer owned by the son arrested in San Diego.”
That woman met with other parents whose sons were arrested Sunday; they’re part of a large Somali community in Minneapolis.
“The community is in a state of confusion,” Somali activist Omar Jamal tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “They don’t know what is going on. … This is a very serious issue. We as a community are concerned about losing our kids to [ISIS].”
According to MPR, “about 15 young people from the Twin Cities … allegedly traveled to Syria to support the terrorist group ISIS over the past year or so.”
And the Star Tribune says, “At least 22 young Somali men have left Minnesota since 2007 to join Al-Shabab in Somalia.”