Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Minneapolis-St. Paul 1 Site of Anti-Terror Program

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Minneapolis-St. Paul 1 Site of Anti-Terror Program

Article excerpt

MINNEAPOLIS -- The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul will participate in a Department of Justice pilot program designed to engage at-risk communities and stop extremists from recruiting Americans to join terror organizations overseas, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Tuesday.

Luger, who announced the Twin Cities' participation in an interview with The Associated Press, said the program will bring more national expertise and resources to address terror recruiting in Minnesota to "build what we hope will be a model for the rest of the country."

The goals, he said, are to engage the community and build trust to put a stop to recruiting. Two other cities will also participate in the pilots announced a day earlier by Attorney General Eric Holder. Those cities haven't been publicly named.

Authorities in Minnesota are investigating how a handful of people were recruited to travel to Syria and take up arms with militants. At least one Minnesota man has died, and some families fear their daughters have also gone overseas to take up the cause. Several Somalis have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury -- some as recently as last week.

Luger said it would be hard to quantify whether Minnesota is seeing more recruiting than other areas, but he said the state's large Somali population is a natural target for recruiters.

"The Somali community here deserves to live in peace and security and what is happening with a small number of people within their community is disturbing to them," he said. "So we in the federal government owe it to our community leaders, our religious leaders, to make every effort to help them combat this."

The pilot program -- which brings together prosecutors, religious leaders, local law enforcement and community representatives -- is a natural for Minnesota, which has already been held up as an international example for its efforts in reaching out to at-risk communities. Outreach efforts have been a focus for law enforcement since more than 22 men began traveling to Somalia to join the terror group al-Shabab years ago. …

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