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FBI confirms man allegedly behind Somali suicide bombing as Minn. man

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Farah Mohamed Beledi
Farah Mohamed Beledi, a Minnesota man who reportedly tried to carry out a suicide bombing in Somalia last week, is shown in a Ramsey County Jail booking photo from November 2006. He was killed before the explosives detonated.
Photo courtesy of Ramsey County

The FBI Thursday confirmed that a Twin Cities man was one of two suicide bombers who staged an attack in Somalia's capital city last week.

Fingerprints from the bomber in Mogadishu match those of Farah Mohamed Beledi, 27. Earlier this week, Beledi's mother in St. Paul confirmed her son's identity to MPR News after seeing a photo of Beledi's body taken after the explosion.

Hassan Mohamed Beledi said it's still a mystery as to why his younger brother, with whom he lost touch over the years, could get caught up with radical ideology.

"Whatever he was thinking — he's my brother — but he was wrong," said Hassan Beledi.

An FBI agent met with Farah Beledi's family members Thursday to inform them of the positive identification.

It's not the first time a Minnesotan has been implicated in a suicide attack in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis became known as the first American suicide bomber when he blew himself up in his homeland in 2008. Now that another Minnesotan has followed that same path is troubling to federal authorities.

"He is the second one we know of, and we hope it's the last one," said FBI spokesman Steve Warfield. "But we do know that about 13 people have traveled to Somalia who have been charged here in Minneapolis."

Also Thursday, as part of the wide-reaching investigation into the radicalization of Somali-American men, the FBI arrested a man in Columbus, Ohio. Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, 26, lived in Eden Prairie until four months ago. Mahamud made his first court appearance in Columbus and is being transported to Minnesota to face charges of providing money and personnel to al-Shabaab.

For the past three years, the FBI has been tracking the departures of young men from Minnesota who have  allegedly joined the terror group in their homeland.

Law enforcement officials have worried that American citizens who become further radicalized in Somalia will have travel documents to come back to the United States and commit terrorist acts. But authorities have said there's no evidence suggesting the young men were planning attacks on the U.S.

Beledi was born in Somalia and arrived in Philadelphia with his mother and another brother when he was 12, according to family members. Shortly after, the family moved to Minnesota.

Although Beledi attended Central High School and graduated from the St. Paul public school system, he eventually built a long rap sheet, including an aggravated assault charge that landed him in prison. Beledi pleaded guilty in 2007 to stabbing another man in the neck during a soccer game at Central High School in St. Paul. 

After he was released in 2008, he told community members that religion helped him break free of his criminal past.

Those who have been closely following the story say Beledi appears to have been at a delicate crossroads. Zuhur Ahmed, host of the KFAI radio show "Somali Community Link," believes he may have been vulnerable to a radical message.

"It's easier to recruit someone that can't work, is in the system for criminal record," Ahmed said. "It's easier to say, 'You don't have a life here. You don't have much going on here, so come and fight for your religion, come and fight for your people,' or whatever they say to recruit them."

Officials at a Minneapolis mosque that Beledi publicly credited for turning his life around in 2009 say he never worked for them, but participated in the youth programs and served as a volunteer there.

"Farah was interested to share his past experiences with the public, like he did in the Abubakar open house in February 2009," said Hassan Jama, executive director of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, in a prepared statement.

Jama said the mosque does not condone extremist thinking. The FBI has emphasized there's no evidence suggesting imams or other mosque officials radicalized the young men who went on to join the war in their homeland, where al-Shabaab is trying to overthrow the nation's weak transitional government.

Federal authorities believe that in October 2009, Beledi left Minnesota for Somalia. A federal grand jury indicted him last year on charges of providing material support to al-Shabaab.

On his suicide mission May 30 at a security checkpoint for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, African peacekeepers say Beledi was killed before he could activate his bombs.

The FBI is working on identifying a second suicide bomber who succeeded in blowing himself up. The blast killed two African Union troops and a Somali government soldier.