An increasing number of individuals have been captivated by extremist ideology, Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference Thursday announcing charges against 14 individuals for supporting a terrorist group operating in Somalia.
But those in the American Muslim community are strong partners in fighting the threat, Holder said, and there needs to be more recognition of their efforts.
“It’s a disturbing trend that we have been intensely investigating in recent years and will continue to investigate and root out,” Holder said. “But we must also work to prevent this type of radicalization from ever taking hold.”
The Justice Department announced the charges against 14 individuals in Minnesota, California and Alabama at the mid-day news conference Thursday. The defendants are charged with providing material support for the terrorist group al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and has ties to al-Qaeda. Just two of those charged have been arrested as of Thursday.
Of the 14 individuals charged, 26-year-old Alabama native Omar Hamammi is the most well-known. He has appeared in videos for al-Shabab, including at least two which show him rapping in English, according to NBC.
Hamammi has taken on an operational role within the organization, Holder said. He declined to elaborate.
With the latest indictments, the Justice Department has charged 40 U.S. citizens with category 1 international terrorism violations — the most serious charges such as the use of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to murder persons overseas or providing material support for terrorism — in 2009 and 2010. That number does not include any foreign citizens, permanent U.S. residents or visa holders.
Holder was joined at the news conference by Sean Joyce, the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch; Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris; U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota B. Todd Jones; U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama Kenyen R. Brown; and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy.
“Members of the American Muslim community have been – and continue to be – strong partners in fighting this emerging threat. They have regularly denounced terrorist acts and those who carry them out. And they have provided critical assistance to law enforcement in helping to disrupt terrorist plots and combat radicalization,” Holder said.
Holder said individuals in the American Muslim community have consistently expressed deep concern about the recruitment of their youth by terrorist groups. The community has taken proactive steps to stop the recruitment, Holder said, such as a video made by a group of American Muslims that repudiates the tactics used by radical terrorists to recruit young followers online.
That video was produced by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has taken on a prominent liaison role at the Justice Department and the FBI. At a speech in June, Holder said he found it “intolerable” that Arab and Muslim Americans feel uncomfortable about their relationship with law enforcement.
“There needs to be more recognition of these efforts and of the losses suffered in the Muslim community here and around the world,” Holder said Thursday. “Many of the victims of terror attacks by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist groups are innocent Muslims.”