Community members said Saturday that 20-year-old Jamal Ahmed, also known as Jamal Bana, was shot in Mogadishu. Ahmed’s mother, Abayte Ahmed, told the Associated Press Sunday that she and her husband identified their son in a photo on a Somali news Web site.
Reports are also circulating through the Somali community that Zakaria Maruf, believed to have recruited several young men from Minneapolis to fight in Somalia, was also killed over the weekend.
The young men left Minnesota late last year and are believed to have returned to Somalia. An FBI spokesman said the agency could not confirm either death.
Mukhtar Osman couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the picture of Jamal Bana – also known as Jamal Ahmed – on a Somali news website Saturday.
“When I opened the website and I saw the picture, Jamal just caught me in the face,” he said.
The civil engineer knew Bana – the first man to be reported killed over the weekend – from the tight-knit circles that make up the Twin Cities Somali community.
“It was 100 percent him,” he said. “There was no question about it, because I met the guy a couple of times a year in Minnesota.”
Community members say 20-year-old Bana was among a group of young men who left last November to join the fighting in Somalia, which has been without a functioning government for years and is wracked by an escalating civil war.
U.S. authorities are investigating a possible connection between the men who disappeared and terrorist groups.
One of the authorities’ top concerns is the men may have been recruited by Al Shabaab, a militant Islamist group aligned with al Qaeda.
Osman is tired of hearing about the violence in Somalia. He says it’s tragic that young men with so much promise are leaving the U.S. to fight there.
“I am sending the family who lost their son my pain, and I want to say I’m sorry they lost their son,” he said. “They really didn’t deserve that, because they left for Somalia because of civil war.”
Osman says he’s heard from a number of reliable Somali contacts that Maruf was also killed over the weekend.
If true, people familiar with the case say it’s a major development because of the role Maruf may have played.
Maruf, 30, is believed to be one of the most radicalized of the men who left Minnesota for Somalia. A graduate of Edison High School in Minneapolis, he may have recruited some of the younger men to go to Somalia. In an interview with a Somali radio station several months ago, Maruf suggested that he and his friends traveled to Somalia on their own volition.
In the interview, Maruf implied that his participation in the fighting was motivated by religion, not patriotism.
Two other Minneapolis men have died in Somalia: 17-year-old Burhan Hassan was killed in Mogadishu last month. And federal authorities believe 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed was responsible for a suicide bombing last fall.
All of the men share a similar story. They arrived as refugees and grew up in Minnesota, attending mosque and going to high school in Minneapolis.
Abdirashid Ali, a 24-year old Minneapolis store owner, grew up with the men and also worked as a security guard with Bana.
He says Bana’s death was all the talk Saturday at places where young Somalis hang out.
“People were talking about it, like, ‘oh, another stupid one got killed,'” he said.
Ali was born in Somalia and remembers how hard his family had to struggle to make a life in Minnesota. He’s disgusted by the whole situation and thinks the missing men were brainwashed.
“Little kids are being brainwashed and I don’t know who is doing it,” he said. “I wish I knew, because that could happen to anybody in my family.”