Hargeisa, 12 July 2009 – Another Minnesota man recruited to join an Al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia has been killed in the war-torn African country, according to a spokesman for the man’s family.
Family members of 20-year-old Jamal Bana found photos of his bloody body online, according to Abdirizak Bihi, who has represented many of the families whose loved ones left the Minneapolis area last year to join al-Shabaab, which has been warring with the moderate Somali government since 2006.
The FBI has been looking into how more than 20 young, Somali-American men from the Twin Cities and elsewhere were recruited to train and possibly fight alongside al-Shabaab.
Like many families of men who left unannounced for Somalia, Bana’s mother had been regularly searching the Internet for any information about her son in Somalia, according to Bihi.
She came upon a series of photos on a Somali Web site, purporting to show an Afghan or Pakistani fighter who was killed during a fight in Mogadishu on Saturday. But, Bihi said, Bana’s mother knew instantly that the gruesome photos – depicting a person with a bloody gunshot wound to the head – were that of her son.
“He doesn’t look Somali. He has very light skin,” Bihi said. “So they thought he is a foreign jihadist from Afghanistan or Pakistan.”
Bihi said the Somali government took the photos to show the world that they had killed a foreign fighter. He said most of the photos were taken inside the Somali Presidential Palace, after Bana’s body was removed from the streets of Mogadishu.
One photo shows the body being carried on a stretcher in the middle of a street, as soldiers and a man in a red collared shirt, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, look on.
Fox News has decided not to show the photos in full, due to their graphic nature.
An FBI spokesman in Minneapolis said the FBI is aware of the photos, but he would neither confirm nor deny that they show Bana’s body.
Before leaving for Somalia, Bana had studied electrical engineering at a community college.
Bana would be the third known American to die alongside al-Shabaab.
Bihi’s nephew, 17-year-old Burhan Hassan, was killed in Somalia last month. He was a senior at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis when he left for Somalia with Bana in early November last year.
It’s unclear exactly how Hassan died. Law enforcement officials said Hassan was likely killed by artillery fire or a stray bullet. But his family has accused al-Shabaab of murdering him.
Bihi suggested that Bana was also killed by al-Shabaab, after being “brainwashed” to join them.
In October 2008, 27-year-old college student Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis became “the first known American suicide bomber” when he blew himself up in Somalia, killing dozens, according to the FBI.
Bihi was planning to hold a press conference about Bana late this afternoon.