DFL lawmakers seek $2 million to fight terrorist recruitment

Updated: February 8, 2016 - 2:35 pm

House DFL Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Reps. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis and Yvonne Selcer of Minnetonka are pushing for $2 million in new state funding to combat terrorist recruitment.

Minnesota is home to the country’s largest Somali population and youth have been targeted by al-Shabaab to fight abroad for the terrorist organization since 2007.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has led efforts to combat radicalization among Somali youth with the Twin Cities Building Community Resilience Program, which has provided mentoring opportunities and jobs training, among other things.

The programs are making an impact, but need more resources, the lawmakers said.

The current funding level for the state’s Countering Violent Extremism program is $856,000.

“We know that these programs are having a positive impact in our community and we should continue that progress,” Thissen said.

Kahn (DFL-60B) secured $250,000 during the 2015 legislative session for the Department of Public Safety to deter Minnesotans from joining ISIS and al-Shabaab.

“The funding we approved this session is bolstering collaboration between community groups and government agencies in our work to combat terrorism,” Kahn said. “We must continue to better understand the appeal and recruitment tools used to lure young men into terrorism and funding these community-based programs are a step in the right direction.”

Kahn has also introduced a bill for the upcoming session that bans the sell of guns to people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. She said she has received sharp criticism from gun rights supporters but strong support from many constituents as well.

“One of the points in putting in a bill like this is obviously to create discussion about it,” she said.

The GOP-controlled U.S. Senate voted against a similar measure in December after the high profile mass shooting in San Bernadino, Calif. that claimed the lives of 14 people.