November 12, 2009 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Arrest in Netherlands May Yield Insight Into Shabaab Recruiting Networks

Yesterday the Star Tribune (published in Minneapolis-St. Paul) reported on a seemingly significant arrest in the Netherlands related to the al Shabaab recruiting networks that have centered on the Twin Cities area. From the Star Tribune:

    A 43-year-old Somali man from Minneapolis was arrested this week in the Netherlands for allegedly financing the recruitment of up to 20 young Somali men from Minnesota to train and fight with terrorists in their homeland…. The identity of the man, who was arrested Sunday at an asylum-seeker's center 45 miles northeast of Amsterdam, was not released. But Special Agent E.K. Wilson of the Minneapolis FBI office confirmed Tuesday that the man was arrested in connection with the ongoing counterterrorism investigation that began here when young men began disappearing in 2007. “We are aware of this individual and of this arrest. And it is tied to our ongoing Minneapolis investigation,” Wilson said. “We are and have been working closely with Dutch authorities through our legal attaché office in Brussels and coordinating with the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.” Dutch prosecutors said in a statement that the man lived in Minneapolis before leaving the United States in November 2008 and arrived in the Netherlands about one month later. The statement said American authorities asked for the man's arrest and are seeking to have him extradited…. According to the Dutch statement, U.S. prosecutors suspect the man of bankrolling the purchase of weapons for Islamic extremists and helping other Somalis travel to Somalia in 2007 and 2008.

The article refers to this as likely “the most significant development yet” in the investigation into US-based Shabaab recruiting networks. This assessment appears to be correct. A recent article in CTR Vantage that examines Shabaab recruiting networks in the West shows that though recruiters seem to play a significant role in these networks, much is still not known about them. Those arrested to date in the Twin Cities case have been people who traveled to Somalia, or those who facilitated the travel, but the recruiters have been largely in the shadows. For example, when 26-year-old Salah Osman Ahmed pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists based on his travel to Somalia, he spoke elliptically of the recruiters who helped draw him there, mentioning “secret meetings” beginning in October 2007 with people he would only describe as “guys.” The arrest of a bigger player in the case may provide greater insight into these networks.