According to a Somali-language Web site, the FBI is investigating whether a young Somali-American man from Seattle took part in a recent suicide bombing in Mogadishu. The Web site says the man drove one of the two car bombs that killed 21 people on an African Union peacekeepers base.
Most Somali refugees in Seattle arrived in the 1990s, settling in the lower-income neighborhoods in south Seattle. The community has grown — some estimate it's up to 30,000 now.
On Rainier Avenue, next to an open-air car wash and detailer, is the spartan office of Somali Community Services of Seattle. The director, Sarah Farah, says as far as she's concerned, the tale of the Seattle suicide bomber is still just a rumor.
"We don't know if this is true or not," says Farah. "Or what happened to that kid, or what happened to that family. The family didn't come forward still to us at the community center and say, 'This is what happened to my son.' "
There has been an uncorroborated report from a Somali-American blogger who claims to know the name of the suicide bomber. He says the young man's family has already received a visit from the FBI, which plans to compare the family's DNA to the bomber's remains. FBI special agent Fred Gutt won't confirm or deny that report, but he says a Somali-American suicide bomber from Seattle would fit a larger pattern.
A History Of Terrorist Recruitment
"We've seen reports of this before, and some confirmation of it," Gutt says. "So it's something we have seen in the past, and it continues to be a concern."
More than two dozen Somali men have disappeared from Minneapolis and other American cities in recent years — and some have turned up in the middle of the violence back home. Earlier this year, Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, a Somali-American from Seattle, pleaded guilty in Minnesota to charges relating to a recruitment effort by a Somali radical Islamist group called Al-Shabaab.
The FBI may see a pattern, but Fatima Musse doesn't. She's a pillar of the Somali community here. A dozen years after arriving in America, she has her own grocery store and cafe.
"You guys crazy. This not true!" she says in response to the suggestion that some Seattle Somalis might be involved in terrorism.
She refuses to accept that any Somali-American youth would willingly go back there. She said parents sometimes threaten to send kids home — as a form of discipline.
"When they see you say, 'I'm going to take you back,' they say, 'What did I do?' " Musse says. "They scared."
Still, Musse says older people, like herself, are still very much attached to Somalia — not to mention the politics of the intractable civil war. When told of the African Union troops who died in the suicide bombing that's been linked to Seattle, Musse made a face. The African Union troops have no business being in Somalia, she says — it's not their country.