Source: The New York Times
The Carlson School of Management rises from the asphalt like a monument to capitalist ambition. Stock prices race across an electronic ticker near a sleek entrance and the atrium soars skyward, as if lifting the aspirations of its students. The school’s plucky motto is “Nowhere but here.”
For a group of students who often met at the school, on the University of Minnesota campus, those words seemed especially fitting. They had fled Somalia as small boys, escaping a catastrophic civil war. They came of age as refugees in Minneapolis, embracing basketball and the prom, hip-hop and the Mall of America. By the time they reached college, their dreams seemed within grasp: one planned to become a doctor; another, an entrepreneur.
But last year, in a study room on the first floor of Carlson, the men turned their energies to a different enterprise.
“Why are we sitting around in America, doing nothing for our people?” one of the men, Mohamoud Hassan, a skinny 23-year-old engineering major, pressed his friends.
In November, Mr. Hassan and two other students dropped out of college and left for Somalia, the homeland they barely knew. Word soon spread that they had joined the Shabaab, a militant Islamist group aligned with Al Qaeda that is fighting to overthrow the fragile Somali government.
The students are among more than 20 young Americans who are the focus of what may be the most significant domestic terrorism investigation since Sept. 11. One of the men, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somalia in October, becoming the first known American suicide bomber. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert M. Mueller, has said Mr. Ahmed was “radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota.”
An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with close friends and relatives of the men, law enforcement officials and lawyers, as well as access to live phone calls and Facebook messages between the men and their friends in the United States, reveals how a far-flung jihadist movement found a foothold in America’s heartland.