Leaders in the Minneapolis Somali community spoke out Monday against this weekend’s attack on a Kenyan shopping mall by members of the Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabab.
Representatives and imams from several Minnesota Somali organizations gathered at the Abuubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center to condemn the extremist Islamic group’s attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday.
“We reiterate that this form of extremism is a menace to world peace and requires collective cooperation amongst the world community to counteract it,” Abdisalam Adam, chairman of the Islamic Civic Society of America, said at the press conference.
On Saturday, al-Shabab members invaded a popular Nairobi mall with grenades and assault rifles, killing more than 60 people, according to the Associated Press.
Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist group formed after warlords ousted Somalia’s longtime dictator in 1991. It announced its alliance with al-Qaida in February 2012.
Somali-American leaders were quick to distance Islam from the terrorist group at Monday’s press conference.
“They are nothing but criminals,” Ibrahim Baraki, a Kenyan immigrant, said at the press conference. “They are not Muslims.”
The conference was held after a Twitter post alleged that two St. Paul men were among the al-Shabab members who carried out the attack. The tweet has since been deemed inaccurate.
FBI officials haven’t yet confirmed all identities of the men who carried out the attack, said Minneapolis FBI spokesman Kyle Loven. He said they’re monitoring the situation while waiting for more information from Kenyan authorities.
“It’s still a very fluid situation,” Loven said.
He declined to comment on the validity of the tweet.
Leaders of the Minnesota Somali community said they didn’t know if any Minnesota Somalis were involved in the attack, but they said they’ll continue discussions with the community as more details emerge.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. In 2010, there were nearly 50,000 Somalis living in Minnesota, with 18,000 living in Minneapolis.
Last year, a Minneapolis man, Mahamud Said Omar, was found guilty of helping at least 20 men — including two former University of Minnesota students — travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab.
Adam said the Somali leaders urge Muslim youth to “shun and reject the trap of being lured to or recruited by extremist groups.”
Deqa Adan, who immigrated to Minneapolis from Kenya in 2006, said she was worried Kenyans might think all Somalis share the beliefs of al-Shabab.
“There’s so many things going through my head,” she said. “We’re all outraged.”