Death in Somalia: Looking for answers


As the family of 17-year-old Burhan Hassan grieves, conflicting stories about his death in Somalia circulate in the community. MPR reports that a young woman who is a friend of some of the young Minnesotans in Somalia says she talks to them frequently and has spoken to them about Hassan’s death.

She said she heard from Somali-American fighters in Mogadishu that Hassan was killed by a stray bullet that struck his head when he stepped outside. … The three fighters, all from Minnesota, told the woman they had been traveling with Hassan and had just arrived in Mogadishu when he was killed. They also believe Hassan died a martyr, the woman said.

Somalia has been embroiled in a civil war for decades, and a rebel offensive including heavy fighting in Mogadishu has been particularly intense over the past few weeks, claiming at least 200 lives.

Hassan’s uncle, Abdirizak Bihi, is convinced that someone in Minneapolis recruited his nephew and other young Somali men to fight for the al-Shabab militants in Somalia. He also believes that al-Shabab assassinated the Hassan. He says that his nephew was shot because he helped in the investigation of the recruitment and planned to return home. Bihi said his contacts in Somalia had told him that his nephew planned to return home. MPR reports that Bihi blames a local mosque “for allowing his nephew to get into a situation that ultimately robbed him of his life.”

An earlier MPR story described cyber-recruiting by Al-Shabab, including YouTube videos, chat rooms and web sites.

The official story, from the FBI, is that they don’t know much, if anything:

The FBI, which has been leading the investigation into the missing men, could not confirm Hassan’s death and said it had no information that the teenager was planning to return to the U.S.

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