The families of six Somali-American men arrested for allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group deny the accusations.
The men have been charged with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization.
The mother of two of the men, Mohamed Farah and Adnan Farah, said she knew nothing of the accusations until the FBI raided her home Sunday to detain one of her sons.
“Until now I don’t know about the charges. The FBI raided our house, they held pistols at us, they herded us in the living room and then they asked us about Mohamed and Adnan,” Ayan Farah said in an interview with VOA’s Somali news service.
“Our children lived in a beautiful life, with their mother and father and no problems. This is a new problem that we are facing. I don’t believe my children support those groups,” Ayan Farah said.
Prosecutors said the six men, all between 19 and 21 years old, are friends and acquaintances. Four of them were arrested Sunday in Minnneapolis, while two others were arrested Sunday in San Diego.
Hodan Ali Omar echoed Ayan Farah’s doubts. She said the arrest of her brother Guled Oma, was “unjust and a set-up.”
Omar said her brother is a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College who performs his prayers and is “straight and never gets involved in gang and drug activities.”
Asked if she was aware of his plans to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group, she said her brother is an adult and people like him travel.
“I travel … my schoolmates travel. I never suspect that he wanted to travel to Syria to join ISIS,” she said, using another name for the Islamist group.
The other three men arrested were identified as Abdirahman Daud, Hanad Musse and Zacharia Abdurahman, all from the Minneapolis area.
Efforts to join IS
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said the men worked for 10 months to leave the United States and join Islamic State.
The complaint said the men sought to travel to Turkey by way of New York City and San Diego, California, in an attempt to reach Syria.
Ayan Farah said she and family moved to the United States to escape the insecurity of Somalia. But she said she feels U.S. law enforcement agencies are creating problems for her children and other young Somali-Americans.
“To see our children being hunted here, and to use them against each other, to intimidate them and threaten and accuse them of working with those groups…I don’t believe they work with the groups.”
Officials say more than 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to Syria, including more than dozen men and women from the Somali-American community in Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Somali community previously grappled with the issue of young people joining terrorist groups between 2007 and 2010, when about two dozen men traveled to Somalia to join the al-Shabab militant group.
At least two of them were involved in suicide missions in the country, while several of them were killed in battle.