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ISIS and al-Qaeda use social media, Web platforms differently to achieve different ends

For years, Minnesota’s Somali community has been battling the recruitment of young men and women into militant groups like al-Shabaab and the Islamic State (ISIS). Several community and religious leaders have helped form youth groups and held public discussions about the radicalization of Somalis in America. Law enforcement agencies are also playing their part. Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, is working with members of the local Somali community to better understand its concerns and how to help the community fight extremism.

According to CBS News, when Luger learned that a local Muslim man was prohibited from boarding a flight at the Minneapolis airport because his name resembled one on the Transportation Security Administration’s “No-Fly List,” Luger had the issued resolved within a few weeks. His swift action has earned Luger praise within the Somali community. “We’ve been waiting for somebody like him,” said Mohamed Farah, executive director of the youth support group Ka Joog.

Since 2007, at least twenty-two young Muslim men have left Minnesota to join Islamist militants in Syria or Somalia. The FBI and local law enforcement has since increased their outreach efforts within the Somali community, but many community members are skeptical. Local Somalis often share stories about law enforcement agents using relationships with members of the community to force Somalis to testify in court.

To gain trust within the community, Luger has been meeting with local elders, and speaking at community forums. He often credits the community for its resilience against terrorist recruitment efforts. “If you read about charges in the newspaper or you see it on television, if you see me on Somali TV talking about it, this is something we’re doing together,” Luger said at a recent appearance before dozens of Somalis at a Minneapolis gym. “It is not the government attacking this wonderful, peaceful, private large community. You deserve to have this wonderful community grow and live and prosper in peace, and I want to help you do that.”

Luger’s work with Minnesota’s Somali community predates the White House’s “countering violent extremism” initiative which encourages law enforcement agencies to reach out to Muslim communities as a way to curb Islamist recruitment. “This program goes well beyond the threat posed by any one individual movement. It also acknowledges that the kinds of challenges faced by communities in one city may be quite different to those faced in another area of the country,” said John Horgan, an expert on the psychology of terrorism, who worked with the government to develop the initiative. “That’s why local context, local knowledge and local resources are at the heart of any effort to protect communities from predatory recruitment efforts.”

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