- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Somali youth group wants more than $4 million in state funding for workforce training, arts initiatives and after-school programs to fight international terrorist recruitment across Minnesota.

Mohamed Farah, executive director of the group Ka Joog, told state lawmakers on Thursday that the money - doled out over two years - would occupy at-risk Somali youth and make them less susceptible to recruiters for extremist groups like the Islamic State and al-Shabab.

“It’s an issue that we must come together to combat. It’s an ideology issue, and we must fight ideology with an ideology,” Farah told the Senate E-12 Policy and Budget Division in its first meeting of the 2015 legislative session.

Authorities say at least 22 young Minnesotans have traveled to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab since 2007.

Minneapolis is home to the nation’s largest Somali population, but the requested funding would also reach the Somali communities in Rochester, Willmar and St. Cloud, Farah told lawmakers.

Farah said he wants to keep Somali youth away from negative influences so they can finish high school and pursue higher education.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are already part of a national Department of Justice pilot program designed to use job training and community engagement in communities at risk for terrorist recruitment. Boston and Los Angeles are also part of the program.

Andrew Luger, Minnesota’s U.S. attorney, has spent the past 10 months meeting with Somali leaders and the law enforcement community to discuss the challenges they face in fighting recruitment, said Ben Petok, his spokesman. Luger’s office is drawing up specifics on how it will carry out the pilot program, which Petok said will be announced next month.

Farah said Ka Joog hasn’t yet spoken to lawmakers about drafting a bill for the $4.35 million in state funding the group wants, which would be in addition to any money spent through the federal program.

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