SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA - Minnesota is home to an estimated 10,000 Kenyans, and today many leaders in the community chose the State Capitol to show solidarity with their home country in the days after the Nairobi mall attack.
"We now know the al-Shabab terrorist group has claimed responsibility for this heinous act, and to hear among them to be persons recruited from Minnesota is heart wrenching" said Zipporah Bogonko, a local pastor. "We live in a world where others seek to destroy our way of life, yet we will not retaliate with hate or retribution, but extend our love and hospitality that is who we are as a people."
The group emphasized that no ideology justifies the slaughter of innocent people, and said the attack was plotted at an international, upscale mall roughly the size of Rosedale.
"This time they really wanted to make a statement because this mall it's a symbol I think, a symbol, of the international nature of the Kenyan nature, we love to be with people around the world," said Tom Gitaa, a publisher of an African newspaper in the Twin Cities.
The attack also brought renewed concerns al-Shabab continues to recruit young men from Minnesota. A You Tube video titled "Minnesota's Martyrs: A Path to Paradise" was released last month and shows three Minnesotans who fought and died for Al-Shabab.
"We are hoping it's not true, that connection will not pan out, because even the Kenyan government doesn't completely confirm. There have been a couple contradictory messages from top government officials in Kenya," said Gitaa. "We need to help that community to see how they can be successful with their efforts to stop the youth from being indoctrinated. To the credit of Somali community here in Minnesota, they have been working very hard to see they can prevent this youth from falling through the cracks."
FBI agents are conducting fingerprint, DNA and ballistic analysis in Kenya today to determine the identities of the gunmen. The Minneapolis FBI office al-Shabab recruitment since 2007, and says engagement with the local Somali community is ongoing, with examining possible links to Kenya is top priority.
"We are awaiting for the information to come out of Kenya, so are obviously monitoring the situation as far as confirming the identities of those involved, we are certainly not in a position to do that right now," said Kyle Loven, the spokesman for the Minneapolis FBI office. "The vast majority of the Somali community here is absolutely abhorred by what they are experiencing here."
Minnesota Kenyans are planning a prayer service this Saturday, and all are welcome. It will be held at the Empowerment Center at 5801 John Martin Drive in Brooklyn Center at 5 p.m.
Anyone who wishes to donate to victims in Kenya can now do so by going to an Anchor Bank, and donating to the account Pray4Kenya, at #100064781.
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