In an effort to smooth frayed relations between the city’s Somali-American community and law enforcement, Rep. Keith Ellison traveled to south Minneapolis today to meet with friends and relatives of four Twin Cities men accused of plotting to join the Islamic State.
Ellison’s office declined to discuss the details of the closed-door meeting Friday afternoon at South High School — which at least two of the defendants attended — and school officials directed questions to a Minneapolis Public Schools spokeswoman. But a source with knowledge of the meeting said it was aimed at easing tensions between authorities and the Somali community, particularly its youth, which surfaced after the indictment this week of six young men on charges of conspiring to aid and support a terrorist organization; in this case, a particularly violent group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the four defendants being prosecuted in Minnesota — Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Adnan Abdihamid Farah, Hanad Mustafe Musse and Guled Ali Omar — held without bail until trial, citing the seriousness of the charges and concerns that they would flee the country. The decision was met with outrage by the 200 or so supporters who crammed into the downtown St. Paul courthouse on Friday, and a tense standoff in the lobby ensued.
The strained tensions have attracted the attention of telawmakers, including Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, who in 2006 was the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.
Authorities will have to be even more resourceful and creative to get through to disillusioned young Somali-American kids at the “tipping point,” he said in a lengthy interview with the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis was one of three cities picked earlier this year to participate in a White House pilot program called “Countering Violent Extremism,” which focused on strengthening relationships between law enforcement and Muslim community leaders.