Somali elders make citizen's arrest of suspected recruiter

EXCLUSIVE: Somali-American elders make citizen's arrest of suspected recruiter

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The motto of the Department of Homeland Security is "see something, say something" -- and a group of Somali-Americans did just that when they thought a man was trying to recruit teens to fight in Syria.

The FBI believes as many as a dozen young men have been recruited from Minneapolis, and as many as 200 from across the U.S. Now, the agency is trying to figure out what exactly lead several people to make a citizen's arrest of an alleged recruiter in the bustling Karmal Square.

Community members explained that Somali elders were watching when a man they've never seen before approached two 14-year-old boys after prayers.

"He said, 'Do you want to fight overseas in jihad?'" Sheik Abdirazak Kanyan told Fox 9 News.

Kanyan, the boys' religion instructor, was among those watching.

"He said, 'Do you know anyone who wants to go overseas and fight,'" Kanyan relayed. "They said, 'That's a stupid question, and it's illegal."

The elders believe the man was a recruiter trying to convince young men and boys to fight in Syria and Iraq for the al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIS. Abdi Mohamud Nur, 20, is one of a dozen young Minnesota men to leave in the last few months to join the jihad. So is Abdirahmaan Muhumed, who is believed to be pictured in a photo with a Koran in one hand and an assault weapon in the other.

The citizens detained the man in the parking lot and called authorities. Both Minneapolis police and the FBI are now investigating, but some sources say it could all come down to a miscommunication. The elders who spoke with Fox 9 News do not believe so.

"The boys speak English very well," Kanyan assured. "They know what the guy asked."

So much has changed from 6 years ago, when the Somali-American community saw 24 of their young men leave the Twin Cities to go fight for al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. Today, the recruiting efforts are much the same -- slick videos that appeal to young men looking for purpose and adventure. Whether the main detained is one of the elusive recruiters is unknown at this time, but many in the Somali community say they aren't taking any chances.

"This is our country," Jibril Afyare told Fox 9 News. "The protection and security of the USA is our interest."

Minneapolis police told Fox 9 News the suspected recruiter was never taken into custody. Because of that, many in the Somali community are wondering if he may actually have been an informant -- just not a very good one, perhaps.

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