Minnesota connections to Kenya mall attack - New York News

Minnesota connections to Kenya mall attack

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The FBI and U.S intelligence officials are "aggressively" investigating whether or not Americans were among the al-Shabaab militants who attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

ANY MINNESOTA MEN INVOLVED?

On Monday, Kenya's foreign minister told PBS NewsHour two to three of the attackers are Americans, including a teen from Minnesota; however, the State Department has not confirmed that report. On Tuesday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said there is no hard evidence American Somalis were involved.

A Twitter account claiming to speak for al-Shabaab previously released the names of two Minnesota men allegedly involved in the terrorist attack.

In the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, the name of a young man who left Minnesota in 2008 has been circulating; however, no official confirmation has come.

STUDENTS IN MINN. LOSE LOVED ONES TO ATTACK

Several students at St. John's Prep in Collegeville, Minn., are mourning the loss of loved ones killed at the Westgate Mall over the weekend attack.

A moment of silence and prayer service was held Monday morning.

Three St. John's Prep students were affected by the mall shooting, including a pair of sisters from Kenya and a senior student from Ghana. The three students lost an uncle and grandfather in the shootings, and they know several neighbors and close friends who were injured.

"These students have lost family members, including an uncle and a grandfather, and close friends and neighbors in the terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi," principal Matt Reichert wrote in a letter to the St. John's Prep community. "In any event such as this, but especially when it occurs so far away, it is easy to feel helpless or like there is little that can be done. We can, however, support our students and their families with our prayers and our love."

The school has urged students to write personal letter of condolence.

CANADIAN TEENS INJURED AFTER MINNESOTA VISIT

Many people have struggled to understand the violence that broke out in Kenya, but the reality of the mall massacre is very real to a Minnetonka woman whose teenage nieces were injured in the attack.

Hodan Hassan told FOX 9 News she had just spent a summer with 17-year-old Fardosa Abdi and her 16-year-old sister, Dheeman. The girls were looking at colleges in Minnesota and had just boarded a flight to reunite with their parents in Nairobi in August.

"Tragedy has no borders. Tragedy has no religion; it has no identity," Hassan said. "The monsters who are doing this aren't doing this for religion. They are doing this because they are maniacs."

Hassan said her nieces' injuries contradict reports that the attackers were sparing Muslims. Dheeman Abdi was shot in the leg and suffered a shrapnel injury to her arm. Fardosa Abdi was seriously injured in one of the explosions.

MINNESTOTA'S SOMALI-AMERICAN COMMUNITY RESPONDS

Somali-American community organizations in Minneapolis held a joint press conference Monday afternoon at Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center "to condemn the heinous act of senseless violence that claimed the lives of many innocent people in Nairobi, Kenya."

Organizers of the events said the community must "stand in solidarity" with the victims and their families and "point out the menace of extremism."

"Al-Shabaab and these people, they are criminals. They are not Muslims," said Ibrahim Baraki. "They may have our name and look ... they have deviated from the teaching of Islam -- save life, not destroy life."

Local imams denounced the attack and expressed condolences for all the victims, but they were not keen to discuss the issue of recruiting in the local Somali community.

The mosque where the imams publicly decried the violence is the same one attended by many of the 20 or so men who were recruited by al-Shabaab and left to fight in Somalia. Two of them went on to become suicide bombers.

KENYANS IN MINNESOTA GRAPPLE WITH LOSS, SUPPORT SOMALI COMMUNITY

For Kenyans living in Minnesota, there is considerable worry about whether the mall attack is an isolated event or a spread of terrorism to a country at peace.

At a Capitol news rally, Kenyans said they stand with the Somali community in condemning the Westgate mall attacks. Somali terror group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility with unconfirmed reports from the Kenyan ambassador that Minnesotans may have been among the attackers.

HOSTAGES FREED

Kenya's Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said three militants have been killed and more hostages have been freed as military forces led a new rescue operation Monday inside the mall in Nairobi.

THE VICTIMS

Officials reported at least 62 people were killed and 200 wounded in the weekend siege, while 63 were reported missing.

Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including French, Canadian and Chinese citizens. The U.S. State Department said four American citizens were injured and were being given assistance. The age of the victims ranged from 2 to 78, Reuters reported.

INVESTIGATING AL-SHABAAB

A source told FOX News that the U.S. intelligence community believes the attack is a "hot" and "major event" because it is outside the normal scope of al-Shabaab and because of the alleged "multinational character" of the attackers.

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