Luger releases Minnesota anti-radicalization plan - San Jose Mercury News
A federal prosecutor said Monday that a new program aimed at preventing the radicalization of Minnesota Somalis will focus on youth programs, job training and fewer security hassles when they travel by air.
Andy Luger, U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said the pilot program is aimed at helping the Somali community itself address the "root causes" of what has led some local Somalis to leave Minnesota to fight abroad for terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group in Syria and al-Shabab in Somalia.
The federal prosecutor met first Monday with a group of local law enforcement officials, then with a group of Somali community leaders, to lay out a draft of the plan and get their feedback. Luger and the U.S. attorneys from Los Angeles and Boston plan to present their locally tailored plans at a White House summit on countering violent extremism. The date for that meeting has not been set, but Luger said he expects it to be next month.
Luger sought to dispel any concerns that the new program is just a cover for stepped-up law enforcement.
"This is not about gathering intelligence, it's not about expanding surveillance or any of the things that some people want to claim it is," he said. "It's not that. This is about going after the problems that you have told me about that may lead to the kind of radicalization that some of the youth are engaged in, and we're taking about trying to prevent it in the future."
At his meeting with Twin Cities Somali leaders, Luger said his "Building Community Resiliency" plan includes a greater focus on youth programs, including in-school and after-school activities, to keep young people engaged in the broader community. It also includes expanded job training opportunities. A third component is making security screening at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport less burdensome, a sore point for many local Somalis who complain of unequal treatment.
Few details were publicly released Monday. Reporters were asked to leave a few minutes into Luger's presentation. He said he wanted to have a "private conversation" with the Somali leaders. Luger's spokesman, Ben Petok, said they weren't ready to discuss how much the initiative will cost.
Luger has been involved in extensive outreach to Minnesota's Somali community, the largest in the U.S., since he took the job in February, building on local and federal law enforcement efforts that have been going on for several years. Those efforts took on greater urgency in recent months after it emerged that a handful of local residents were persuaded to travel to Syria and fight for militants there, and that at least one died there. But the problem goes back to around 2007, when more than 22 young Somali men began traveling from Minnesota to Somalia to join al-Shabab in their war-torn homeland.