Foreign Policy Blogs

New Concerns over Somali-American Terror Connection

American law enforcement expects, and often receives, an extremely high level of cooperation from various Muslim communities throughout the United States.  Iranians, Iraqis, Saudis, Egyptians; most are well integrated within their local communities and establishments. As a result, the threat of domestic terrorism is often lower in the US than in other western nations with a more radicalized Muslim minority, such as the United Kingdom or France.  However, one particular segment of an isolated community is beginning to trouble counter-terror officials; recent immigrants from Somalia. 

A recent hearing, conducted by the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, was troubled by increased recruitment of Somali-American youth by al-Shabaab.  According to the State Dept., this terrorist organization is well armed, strategically sophisticated, and enjoys extensive relationships with other al Qaeda affiliates. 

“Over the last two years, individuals from the Somali community in the United States, including American citizens, have left for Somalia to support and in some cases fight on behalf of al-Shabaab,” said Senator Lieberman.


Concerns over al-Shabaab began late last year.  Shirwa Ahmed, a Somali-American was radicalized in his home state of Minnesota, and then sent to Somalia where he killed himself and 29 others in a suicide bombing.  More distressing than the involvement of an American citizen, is the fact that he was approached, recruited, and radicalized not in Somalia, but in the United States.

State Dept. officials are attempting to determine the causes of these recent developments.  Why is the Somali community more susceptible to recruitment than other local Muslim minorities?  Experts contend that the Somali community is more isolated than others because of more recent waves of immigration (primarily throughout the 1990s, after American intervention in the region), and less adaptability towards the American way of life. 

The greatest concern to law enforcement agencies, more than those radicalized individuals leaving the United States, is these same individuals returning with the intention of conducting terror attacks.  The majority of these youths are American citizens, and travel between the US and Somalia is hardly restrictive with proper paperwork and familial requirements. 

The only way to combat this threat is to eliminate the problem at its root cause.  Unlike Saudi youth living in Riyadh, or Egyptian youth in Cairo, the US Government has the opportunity and obligation to reach out to the American-Somali community, and ensure that if fundamentalist recruitment is taking place, they all have a shared investment in approaching local authorities. 




Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;