Minneapolis-St. Paul 1 site of anti-terror program
The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul will participate in a Department of Justice pilot program designed to detect American extremists who are looking to join terror organizations overseas, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Tuesday.
Luger announced the Twin Cities' participation during an interview with The Associated Press.
Authorities have said a handful of people have left Minnesota to join militant groups in Syria. At least one man has died while fighting for the Islamic State.
"We all share the same goal," Luger said. "The community wants this recruitment of people to travel to end. We in the federal government want it to end, and local law enforcement wants it to end. The question is: What's the best way to get there?"
He said the solution starts with building trust in the community. Authorities have already been reaching out to members of Minnesota's large Somali community, but this pilot program will bring in more resources from Washington to help solve the problem.
Two other cities will also participate in the pilots, which were announced a day earlier by Attorney General Eric Holder. Those cities have not been publicly named, and Luger declined to disclose them on Tuesday.
The program — which brings together prosecutors, religious leaders and community representatives — is a natural for Minnesota, which already has a long history of reaching out to members of at-risk communities. Authorities have been working with members of the state's large Somali community for years, after more than 22 men went to Somalia to join the terror group al-Shabab.
Now, this nationwide effort is designed to stop a new wave of Westerners being recruited for Islamic State militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
Authorities in Minnesota are investigating how a handful of people were recruited to travel to Syria and take up arms with militants. Several Somalis have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury — some back in June and others as recently as last week.
Authorities have confirmed that at least one Minnesota man has died while fighting for the Islamic State, and some families fear their daughters have also gone overseas to take up the cause.
Luger said one advantage to having Minneapolis and St. Paul participate in the program is that "some of the best minds in the country" are focused on building partnerships in the community and solving the problem.