Call to Octuple Terror-Recruitment Funding

     ST. PAUL (CN) – Minnesota should put $1 billion budget surplus to use combating terror recruitment in the home of the largest Somali population in the United States, Democratic lawmakers said, calling for the state to octuple funding.
     The announcement Monday comes on the heels of a report by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety spotlighting the number of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq who were originally from Minnesota.
     The Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel saw Minnesota roots in 15 of 58 publicly identified foreign fighters who originated in the United States, but “this number is an estimated fraction of the total number of U.S. citizens and residents who desire to or have made their way overseas unknown to authorities,” the report states.
     The task force said Minnesota’s ranking as home to the largest Somali population in the United States makes the Twin Cities especially attractive to recruiters for the so-called Islamic State, often abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS.
     Minnesota used to have a problem of residents traveling to Africa to join the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab, and investigators believe that ISIL has been able to tap into existing recruitment networks and infrastructure that al-Shabaab established.
     Three lawmakers with the DFL, Minnesota’s version of the Democratic Party, met the report Monday by asking the state Legislature to earmark $2 million for community-based programs that will dull ISIL’s recruitment efforts.
     One such program in Minnesota is Ka Joog, a support network for Somali youth whose mission is to empower youth through sports, arts and education.
     House DFL Leader Paul Thissen issued Monday’s call to arms with state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and state Rep. Yvonne Selcer, DFL-Minnetonka.
     It was Kahn who led the initiative last session to commit $250,000 toward combating terrorism and funds.
     “Rep. Phyllis Kahn showed leadership in securing $250,000 in funding to combat terrorist recruitment and supporting programs like Ka Joog,” said Thissen. “We know that these programs are having a positive impact in our community and we should continue that progress.”
     Selcer emphasized the state’s “$1 billion surplus,” saying lawmakers have no reason not to “make a commitment to help at risk youth and to improve opportunities for them.”
     “This is an opportunity for us to work together stop terrorist recruitment in our communities and lift up youth by providing them opportunities to succeed,” Selcer added.
     A statement by the politicians says funding for the Countering Violent Extremism program in Minnesota totals $856,000. That consists of $250,000 from Minnesota, $216,000 from the federal government, and $390,000 from private donations.
     Ka Joog received $125,000 from the state’s Legacy fund for workshops, mentor programs and community engagement events, the House statement notes.
     Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety meanwhile is still taking proposals on how to distribute the $250,000 allocated last year, according to the report.
     KSTP quoted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota as saying it would cost $5 million a year to successfully fight terror recruitment in the Twin Cities.
     U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger noted specifically that Minnesota has a “terror recruiting problem.”

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