Somali bombing connection to Minn. disputedby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio,
Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia says an American man was one of two suicide bombers who carried out an attack in Mogadishu on Saturday, killing 10 people.
The only evidence of the bombers' identities so far is a recording of what al-Shabab says is one of their voices.
That audio clip has led some local Somalis to identify one of the bombers as a young man from Minneapolis, although others who knew the man dispute that.
The Associated Press reports two suicide bombers blew themselves up in an attack Saturday on an African Union base.
A website associated with the terror group al- Shabab posted an audio clip of a speaker identified as responsible for the bombing. The man urges jihad against nonbelievers.
"Jihad is what is most important for the Muslim (omah?). It is not important that you become a doctor or you become some sort of engineer."
Several news outlets quote Omar Jamal of St. Paul, first secretary of the Somali mission to the United Nations, as identifying the man as Abdisalan Hussein Ali of Minneapolis, after two of Ali's friends who listened to the recording said it sounds like him.
Local community activist Abdirizak Bihi says the voice on the recording has a persuasive tone that is meant to appeal to Somalis worldwide.
"What we are worried about is the immensity of the message. How articulate it is," said Bihi. "It is really, really very good for the recruiters to use that."
Bihi's nephew, Burhan Hassan, left for Somalia in 2008, the same year Abdisalan Ali allegedly did -- and Hassan was killed there in 2009. Bihi says he won't be sure the voice in the recording is Abdisalan Ali until Ali's mother confirms it.
Official sources also aren't ready to name the bomber. Suldan Farahsed is communications Director for the Somali President.
"The information that we have thus far is that one of the bombers could possibly be an American citizen of Somali origin," said Suldan Farahsed, communications director for the Somali president. "But we don't know the name or the age. All that will come out soon."
An FBI spokesman in Minneapolis also said he could not confirm the man's identity.
Others who knew Abdisalan Ali in Minneapolis don't think the recording is Ali's voice. Three of Ali's friends from his years as a student at the University of Minnesota say the man on the recording has the wrong accent. They say Ali's English is worse than the speaker's on the recording.
MPR News agreed not to name the friends because they don't want to draw attention to themselves in a high-stakes investigation that started about three years ago.
The three say when they knew Ali, he dressed and spoke with a bit of "gangster" swagger. Despite his baggy jeans and sagging shirts, they describe him as studious and serious about school. During his freshman year at the U, he sold designer sneakers to help support his family in Minneapolis.
Ali's alleged departure to Somalia in November 2008 as part of a second wave of aspiring al-Shabab fighters was a shock to many of his friends. About two dozen Minnesota men are believed to have traveled to Somalia to take up arms with the Somali terror group that has links to al-Qaida.
While some of the men had troubled and criminal pasts, others, like Ali, seemed to have promising careers ahead of themselves.
Since 2008, at least three Somali-Americans have staged suicide attacks in Somalia, including two men from Minnesota.
In the most recent case, former St. Paul resident Farah Mohamed Beledi tried to detonate himself at a government checkpoint in Mogadishu in May. He was shot to death before he could deploy his explosives. The FBI officially confirmed his identity 10 days after his death.
- Morning Edition, 10/31/2011, 6:20 a.m.
Rupa Shenoy is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.