MARSHALL - Presenters at Tuesday's all-day seminar, "Understanding the People of Somalia," spoke to law enforcement personnel about an alarming trend of radical imams recruiting and radicalizing American-raised Somalis to be suicide bombers for the Al Queda-affiliated Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab.
"We're really not on top of this," said presenter Bob Fletcher, former Ramsey County sheriff and director of the Center for Somalia History studies.
The all-day seminar was organized by Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
"The purpose of this is to educate the people," said Matthew Loeslie, director of MinnWest Law Enforcement Training. "We have a large Somali population in the Marshall area, and we're just giving them an opportunity for people to learn about the people of Somalia."
Omar Jamal, first secretary of the Somalia United Nations Missions, said in 2008 a young Somali man, Shiwa Ahmed, became the first American-born Somali suicide bomber.
"I was shocked," Jamal said, "I used to play soccer with him."
Jamal said that until recently, suicide bombing was unknown in Somalia.
Fletcher and Jamal showed attendants a list of people from the Minneapolis area that had gone to Somalia to be trained as suicide bombers. One young man who became disillusioned and called his family to send him funds to return to America was found murdered execution- style.
"There are a few among us who are so radical they try to indoctrinate kids and send them in harm's way," Jamal said.
According to Jamal they found all the kids who were recruited were members of the youth group at the same mosque in Minneapolis.
"I tried to talk to the imam, and he found me offensive and labeled me anti-Islamic," Jamal said.
The key to stopping the radicalization of Somali youth in America is to bring the community leaders and the mothers together to make it impossible for them to take advantage of these impressionable kids going to school or college, Jamal said. He advised mothers to keep aware of where their kids are, and to get on the same page as the mainstream community leaders.
Fletcher pointed out that Somali community leaders like Jamal who had spoken out against terrorism had received threats on Facebook.
After presenting a history of the present terrorist campaign in Somalia waged by Al Shabaab, Fletcher said there was no doubt that when they became capable of attacking America, they would.
Jamal warned that if the radicalization of Somali youth was not fought, they would eventually turn on America.
"If I can blow myself up, why buy a plane ticket?" Jamal said. "Why not blow myself up in downtown Minneapolis, or downtown Marshall?"