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Somali-American Says Son Joined Syrian Jihadists

Armed Free Syrian Army fighters near Wadi Al-Dayf camp in the southern Idlib countryside, Sept. 14, 2014.

A Somali-American man says his son has left the United States to join an Islamist extremist group in Syria.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Somali Service, the father of Mohamud Mohamed, 19, said his son vanished from the city of Minneapolis on July 18, then called his mother from Syria four days later to tell her that he was with his "brothers."

The father says Mohamed, who normally lives with his mother in Canada, had come to Minneapolis to spend time with him during the holy month of Ramadan. He says Mohamed disappeared without warning after saying he was going to a mosque for Friday prayers.

"It was shocking," the man said. "My son was a student, he suddenly changed. He used to pray but he increased it to 24 hours of prayers, and he was rarely away from mosques. He arranged his travel without my knowledge, and then he ended up in Syria. All of us [in the family] are very saddened. We did not expect he would do this.”

The 19-year-old allegedly traveled to Turkey, a route often used by Westerners attempting to join Islamic State and other militant groups operating in Syria.

His story is similar to other ethnic Somalis who left North America to fight alongside such groups.

An ethnic Somali from Minneapolis, Abdiraham Muhumed, was killed fighting in Syria earlier this year, as was an African-American from the same city, Douglas MacArthur McCain.

Mohamed's father says he does not know which group his son has joined. He says his son last made contact about a month ago, and he does not know whether the young man is dead or alive.

He appealed to his son to do everything he can to get out of Syria, saying, "You are either in danger of killing someone or getting killed."

VOA's Dan Joseph contributed to this report.