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US Defectors From Radical Islamic Terror Group Had Ties To San Bernardino, Kenyan Garissa Massacre

REUTERS/Feisal Omar

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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An American citizen involved in a shooting massacre that killed over 143 in Kenya this summer and an American permanent resident with possible ties to the San Bernardino shooters have defected from the radical Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab, officials say.

One of the men, who is being referred to as Malik John (AKA Abdul Malik Jones, Abdimalik Jones) is originally from Maryland and was taken into custody Monday by Somalian officials. He has admitted to being involved with the Garissa massacre. The attack on Garissa College is one of the worst in Sub-Saharan Africa in recent memory, with reports that the attackers freed Muslim hostages and executed Christians.

The second man, Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan (AKA Miski), is a Somalian-born permanent resident from Minnesota, and may have connections to the San Bernardino shooters and the failed attack on a Texas convention where people were drawing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to a report from a local Minneapolis news station, Hassan was in contact with San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik over social media. Hassan was indicted by the federal government for attempting to recruit people in Minnesota to join al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is a Somalia-based Islamic terrorist organization allied to al-Qaida. The group’s operations take place mostly against the collapsed government in Somalia, however, the Garissa attacks in Kenya show the group has at least some extraterritorial ambition.

It is not clear why the two men chose to leave al-Shabaab, however authorities do not believe they know each other. In the case of John, he is quoted as saying “I decided to leave them (al-Shabaab) two months ago. I hated them because I found their ideology was totally wrong.” An interesting claim, considering he fought for the group for four years. John had apparently heard of an amnesty program that was set up by the Somalian government for fighters who have joined al-Shabaab. “If possible, I would like to return to my home in Maryland,” he said.

Hassan’s ties to Minnesota are not particularly surprising. The state has been a haven for Somalis since the 1991 civil war broke out in Somalia. Minnesota is home to many charities and aid organizations which assisted in helping the refugees after their relocation by the Department of State, which eventually led to thousands of them staying in Minnesota. Upwards of 30,000 of the 80,000 total Somalian refugees have been relocated to Minnesota since the Somalian civil war. With the relocation program now well over 20 years old, a new generation of Somalian American citizens are growing up in America.

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