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Somalia terrorist activity in US raises concerns, questions

US law enforcement has arrested several people suspected of helping Al Shabab, a Somalia terrorist group. Do those helping the group see Al Shabab's actions as terrorism, or as part of a nationalist struggle?

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / November 16, 2010

Al-Shabaab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia on Oct. 21, 2010.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

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Over the past year American law enforcement officials have arrested several American citizens and residents on charges of aiding Al Shabab, the rebel group in southern Somalia. At first my impression was that these arrests primarily involved people in the largest Somali-American communities, especially Minneapolis, Minn. But a pattern of arrests elsewhere, especially in California, is convincing me that Al Shabab has supporters – still seemingly few in number – across the US. This poses serious problems for policymakers in Washington as well as for law enforcement.

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Recent posts

Here is a partial list of recent arrests (spellings of Al Shabab vary in press reports/releases):

  • June 5, 2010: “Police arrested two New Jersey men at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday as they prepared to travel to Somalia to join a militant group with the aim of killing American soldiers.”
  • August 5, 2010: “The Justice Department announced that four separate indictments were unsealed today in the District of Minnesota, the Southern District of Alabama and the Southern District of California charging 14 individuals with terrorism violations for providing money, personnel and services to the foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab.”
  • October 22, 2010: “Three California residents were indicted on charges of providing funding and other aid for the Shebab.”
  • November 15, 2010: “A federal grand jury has indicted a California woman on charges of aiding Islamic militants in Somalia.”

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