A federal grand jury has been meeting for weeks in St. Paul, Minnesota, to discover who tried to recruit up to 30 Somali-Americans to join ranks with the Islamic State, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Fox News reported.
An FBI source told Fox News that an individual in Minnesota has been involved in convincing young men and women to travel to Syria as well as financing their trips. One focus of the probe has been the Al Farooq Youth and Family Center and mosque in Bloomington, Fox reported.
Two people who attended the mosque, a 19-year-old Somali woman and a 20-year-old man, are believed to have traveled to Syria, the Star Tribune reported.
In this undated file image posted on Monday, June 30, 2014, by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State group parade in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File)
According to unnamed sources who spoke to the Star Tribune, the two “may have fallen under the influence of Amir Meshal, a 31-year-old American of Egyptian descent who allegedly spoke often to them about joining in a jihad.”
Meshal was arrested in Kenya in 2007 and was accused of undergoing training at an Al Qaeda camp in Somalia, the newspaper reported. After being held without charges for four months, he sued the FBI for civil rights violations, but the case was dismissed.
The director of the Minnesota mosque said he secured a no-trespass order against Meshal due to his interactions with the young attendees.
“I made a decision that he needs to be removed from the premises,” Hyder Aziz told the Star Tribune. “I will call police if he ever shows up and they will arrest him.”
Federal officials believe that more than a dozen Somali-American Minnesota men and three women have traveled to the Middle East in the name of jihad, out of an estimated 100 nationwide.
Two Americans from Minnesota were killed last month while fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said last week that she is introducing legislation to prevent any U.S. citizen who travels to fight with a jihadi group overseas from returning to the United States.
“In my opinion, they should lose their American citizenship,” Bachmann said on The Glenn Beck Program. “Because at that point, you have turned against the United States. ISIS has declared the United States as their enemy. Once you join an enemy army … you should, by definition, lose your American citizenship, therefore your passport. You should have no ability to get back into the United States.”
U.S. Homeland Security officials, like their European counterparts, are concerned that those traveling on jihad could later return and launch a terrorist attack back at home.
Last summer, a terrorist propaganda video was posted online aiming to recruit Somali-Americans from Minnesota to Middle Eastern terrorist groups, comparing the excitement of the experience to a visit to Disneyland.