MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA— A small group of ethnic Somalis demonstrated in Minneapolis, Minnesota to express condolences for the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Kenya and to condemn the Somali Islamic militant group al Shabab for carrying out the attack and recruiting susceptible Somali Americans to its cause.
A hundred or so demonstrators gathered at a Somali community center in Minneapolis to show solidarity for their adopted American homeland and to express grief at the loss of innocent lives in Kenya. But mostly the participants wanted to speak out against the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Jamal Hassan says his anger at al-Shabab is personal. His two nieces were victims of the al-Shabab attack on the Nairobi Westgate Mall that killed over 60 people.
“The older one, she was here with me in August, like 20 days before this happened to her. And she was talking about becoming a doctor. She just graduated from high school and now she is fighting for her life, and she may lose her leg. She may never walk again,” he said.
Some young Somali American men have joined al-Shabab and some may have taken part in the Kenya attack. But Mariam Mahmoud wants her fellow Americans to know that these few extremists do not speak for the vast majority of Somalis.
“We are not terrorists. We are good people. We are survivors," she said. "We come [from] civil war to this country to survive. So there are some kids, they [are] brainwashed. They go back and they do bad things. Not everybody [is] like that way.”
Nimco Ahmed says she went to school with a boy in Minneapolis who was later recruited by al-Shabab and became a suicide bomber. She blames the Islamic extremist group for his terrible transformation from naive boy to terrorist.
“When he put on that suicide bomb and blown himself up in a bus full of innocent people, you know I struggle with that because I've know him so well that I can't imagine he could do such a thing," she said. "But part of me feels also, could he have been the victim as well?”
While few in number, this vocal crowd came to speak out against terrorism and to dissociate themselves al-Shabab.