LEWISTON, Maine — A local Somali business owner and community leader sees no place for al-Shabab recruitment in Maine.
Having just returned Saturday from a four-month visit to Somalia, Said Mohamed said he doubts al-Shabab claims that a Maine man was among terrorists who stormed a Kenyan mall, killing at least 62.
The name of a man identified as being from Maine was supposedly tweeted by an account controlled by the terrorist organization along with 14 others, many of whom had connections to the United States.
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that Kenyan authorities were making a final push to rescue at least 10 hostages still being held at the upscale Nairobi mall. Large explosions rocked the neighborhood around the shopping complex during Monday’s battle
Mohamed, a candidate for the Somalia presidency in 2012, said the Somali community in Maine is “very concerned” about developments back in Africa.
According to Mohamed, many in the local community have relatives in Kenya and fear for both their safety and the ability of both Kenya and Somalia’s governments to protect them.
Mohamed, still involved in the leadership of the Somalian People’s Party, said Kenyan soldiers are presently in Somalia and describes a fluid border where neighboring countries constantly stage incursions.
He warns of the dangers of al-Shabab and similar extremist groups and acknowledges their growth among both civilian and government populations.
“There are some reports that claim that there are 18,000 African peacekeepers in Mogadishu and surrounding areas,” Mohamed said, “Al-Shabab is a great threat to the stability of Somalia and its neighboring states.”
“(The peacekeepers) have been sent there to restore peace and security and also to keep al-Shabab out. However, the Somalis are very concerned about the ability of those African peacekeepers and their effectiveness to defeat al-Shabab.”
Mohamed said many of the peacekeepers were sent from neighboring Uganda and questions both their number and their motives.
“Somali people believe the aim of sending dictators’ soldiers to Somalia is only to get huge money from donor countries for the purpose of peacekeeping,” Mohamed said.
“There is a big doubt on the real number of Ugandan peacekeepers. On paper, they are in big numbers, but in reality they are much less than what is claimed. The doubt came when they became unable to uproot 5,000 al-Shabaab militants”
Of the current leadership in Somalia, Mohamed said, “The president is a member of Al-Islah religious group, which has a root with Islamic brotherhood fundamentalists.
“I believe that all religious factions have the same aim whether they are moderate or radical,” Mohamed said, “Their long-term aim is to own the country’s political and economic leadership so they can guide the country directly or indirectly with religious dictatorship.”
As for al-Shabab elements in Maine, Mohamed said he never has expected radical elements here or the possibility of them getting a foothold in this close community.
“We are a community here,” Mohamed said, “we are harmonious and well-connected here.”
Throughout Maine, Mohamed said the Somali community is trying to assimilate, fit in and to distance themselves from the violence they fled.