MINNEAPOLIS - It is a story that has stoked fears and brought international attention to the Twin Cities.
But the mall attacks in Nairobi, Kenya that killed dozens over the weekend have also stoked conversation about outreach to the Somali community in the Twin Cities.
That's because two of the attackers are allegedly from the Twin Cities, but so far authorities have not confirmed that and some are now questioning the claim.
"It almost feels like it sort of is in my own backyard," said former CIA officer Jack Rice.
Rice has actually been to the mall where dozens were killed over the weekend allegedly by members of terrorist group al-Shabab. He tells KARE 11 the mall is much like any mall here in the U.S., open and very difficult to defend.
"What I think what is most important is if you're Somali or Somali-American that does not make you al-Shabab," Rice said.
Yet there have been several Somali young people who have left the Twin Cities to join al-Shabab in recent years.
"In a way it's starting these conversations again, like what are we doing with our youth?" said Zahur Ahmed, a Minnesotan and Somali community leader.
She says trust is still an issue between the Somali community and law enforcement, but there has been a lot of work to build it.
"There has been collaboration between community members and even religious leaders and law enforcement with quarterly meetings," she said.
Collaboration through conversation, something St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith talked about Tuesday in an interview with NBC News.
"That has included starting our own Somali elder council that we meet with regularly and listen to concerns in the community," said Smith.
Smith added that he has been in contact with federal authorities about the attack in Kenya.
"We don't know if there are any direct ties to St. Paul-Minneapolis," he said.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau added she has also been in contact with federal investigators and reiterated the department's outreach.
"The MPD has built positive relationships and value the partnerships established with the Somali and East African communities in Minneapolis. We will continue our proactive community outreach to everyone in the city of Minneapolis," said Harteau.
Ahmed believes the issue of Somalis leaving the Twin Cities to join terrorist organizations is similar to other young people joining local gangs.
"They didn't feel like they belonged here. There was a sense of belonging that was missing in their life," she said of a man she interviewed who later left the area for al-Shabab.
And that is why both the Somali community and law enforcement have worked hard to work together, she said.
"The simple fact the community, the religious leaders took that role tells you there has been good progress," she said of local Somali leaders acting fast to denounce the violence in Kenya.
But the work is far from over. She and others believe the conversations that began before the attacks in Kenya need to continue long after.
"We should stop being reactive when things happen, because this not only impacts the Somalis, this really is becoming a worldwide issue."
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