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Columbus, Ohio

Central Ohio Somali community fears being targeted after teen’s murder



BLACKLICK (WCMH) — Was a local teen murdered because he’s Somalian? The Council for American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR, said in the wake of the shooting, many in the Somali community fear they’re being targeted.

Police haven’t ruled 15-year-old Mohamed Abdulkadir’s death a hate crime, but CAIR said after the shooting, many Somali families are worried they’ll be attacked because of their ethnicity.

NBC4 spoke with a Somali family in the neighborhood where the shooting happened. They said being Somalian had nothing to do with Abdulkadir’s death.

Suheyb Ahmed, 13, is having a hard time coping with the loss of his life-long friend.

“I was like, ‘It’s not possible, he can’t be dead. Like, it was somebody else. Maybe they were just confused,’” he said.

Suheyb and his mother Khadra didn’t want to show their faces on camera. They said Abdulkadir, who lived across the street, was like family.

“We were really close friends. He lives right there. We would always go play soccer or football or basketball together,” said Suheyb.

The Ahmed’s have lived in the Blacklick neighborhood for 14 years.

“I love this neighborhood and we don’t have any problems,” said Khadra.

They said they’ve never felt targeted at home or school.

“This issue is not for hate or racist, this is something came from the kids. We feel safe,” said Khadra.

Romin Iqbal, with CAIR Columbus said Somali families he spoke with in the neighborhood don’t feel the same.

”There’s a lot of fear in the community, in the Somali community,” said Iqbal.

He said they’re scared and that another Somali student was threatened after the shooting.

“I’ve been told that parents are not letting their children go outside and play in the park outside their homes,” said Iqbal.

Iqbal said he’s forwarded the information he’s gathered to the FBI and police.

Suheyb just started 8th grade. He said he loves school. Life just won’t be the same without Abdulkadir.

“He was at the wrong place wrong time,” he said.

The Licking Heights School District said CAIR told it about the alleged threat against a student Tuesday.

It said it will continue to work with police and said dozens of students have been interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation.

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Columbus, Ohio

Somali refugee lobbies D.C. with a simple message: Let him bring his family home



WASHINGTON — When Afkab Hussein decided to tell a room packed full of House and Senate staffers Thursday how the 2017 Muslim and refugee bans affected him, the Somali native brought with him a translator to help tell his story.

In the end, though, in a quiet voice that had only spoken English for a little more than two years, the North Side resident decided he needed to tell his story himself.

Hussein, 30, came to the United States in September 2015, after spending most of his life in a refugee camp in Kenya. He left behind a pregnant wife. In 2016, his wife, Rhodo, and son, Abdullahi, were cleared to come to the United States, but before they could get here, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that banned all refugee admissions and temporarily halted travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Somalia.

That ban was overturned, but a second executive order has effectively kept Hussein and his family in limbo.

Now, Hussein is in Washington on the one-year anniversary of the original ban, telling anyone who will listen how the policy has impacted his family. On Saturday, he’ll be part of a protest in front of the White House — yet another plea aimed at bringing his family to the United States.

Hussein is a plaintiff in a class–action lawsuit fighting the second travel ban that barred the entry of refugees from 11 countries — nine majority Muslim. Refugees are typically permitted into the United States legally because they fear persecution based on race, religion, nationality or political opinions.

Trump has argued that the refugee program is vulnerable to being abused by terrorists. Under his administration, Trump has set a refugee admissions ceiling of 45,000 for this fiscal year. So far, they’re on pace to accept some 15,000 refugees — far lower than the threshold set.

“This is historically low,” said Adam Bates, policy council for the International Refugee Assistance Program.

The translator who accompanied Hussein, Sowdo Mohamud, also of Columbus, had her own story. She came to Ohio five years ago, but even before that, she knew she wanted to be in Ohio: While waiting to come to the United States in 2010, she’d met a doctoral student from Ohio State who told her glowingly about the state.

“I had a Buckeye necklace even before I knew what a Buckeye was,” she said in an interview. She still remembers watching her first OSU football game; she thought it was rugby until her friends set her straight.

“I knew Columbus would be my home from the get-go,” she said.

Mohamud, who became a U.S. citizen Tuesday, said the refugee ban hurt her, too; she had hoped to bring some of her family to be with her in Columbus but found those hopes dashed. More directly, it cost her work: She’d been a caseworker for Somalis coming into the United States. Without refugees, there was no one to help.

She said she and the Somali community she represents have played by the rules. They came legally, going through intense scrutiny to get here. They have jobs. They contribute.

“I always looked forward to coming here and being a part of this country,” she said. But the ban made her feel as if that feeling was not reciprocated.

For Hussein, who works as a long-haul trucker, the problem is stark: He has yet to hold his boy, now 2.

Instead, on his drives across the country that he now calls home, he will occasionally pull out his phone and kiss the photo of the wide–eyed toddler staring back from his home screen. He’ll call Rhodo and the two will talk for hours as the states pass by through his truck window.

Since he’s lived in the United States, he’s been able to send them the money to move to Nairobi. Still, the two can’t stay in Kenya. They remain refugees.

“If they came here, I’d feel very happy,” he said.

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Briefing Room

Ohio man apologizes, is sentenced to 22 years for U.S. terrorism plot



AP — COLUMBUS: An Ohio man who admitted he plotted to kill U.S. military members after receiving training in Syria apologized to his family and adopted country Monday before a federal judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

After returning to the U.S., Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud planned to fly to Texas and attack the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth in an attempt to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Judge Michael Watson said as he outlined the allegations against Mohamud.

Mohamud, 26, told Watson he knew what he’d done was wrong and that he’d fallen into the trap of radicalization while abroad.

“Do you have any idea how misguided that was?” Watson asked Mohamud before he sentenced him.

“Absolutely,” replied Mohamud, who appeared in jail clothes and had shackles around his ankles and his hands chained to his waist. “I wish I could take it back, your honor.”

Watson said he based the sentence on the “deadly serious” nature of the crime and the need to deter others from considering similar actions.

Watson drew attention to the fact that Mohamud applied for a passport to travel abroad only a week after he became a U.S. citizen in 2014.

Mohamud was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a 2-year-old child. He was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty a few months later. The attacks were never carried out.

Mohamud bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Mohamud trained with al-Nusrah Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the government.

Defense attorney Sam Shamansky asked for leniency, saying Mohamud didn’t have his father around when he was growing up, was brainwashed while abroad “by professional head twisters” but later realized his error and abandoned his plot.

“This is a scared, confused, 23-year-old kid, an American kid, who gets his head twisted,” Shamansky said. He called Mohamud’s plan “nonsensical.”

Prosecutors noted Mohamud contacted others from jail after his arrest and told them not to say anything.

“Before Sept. 11, 2001, a plot to take down the twin towers would have been considered nonsensical,” said assistant U.S. attorney Doug Squires. “Because of the FBI, this plot was taken down, and we’re all safer for it.”

Several members of Mohamud’s family were in court but did not speak. Watson said, referring to a letter Mohamud’s sister had written, “Your actions have shaken the whole family.”

An investigation continues. Watson made reference to a plot involving at least five people. Shamansky referred to a group he called “the basketball five,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

The judge also sentenced Mohamud to 10 years of supervision after his release from prison and ordered him to earn his GED while behind bars.

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Columbus, Ohio

Judge set to sentence Ohio man who plotted US attacks



COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Friday is scheduled to sentence an Ohio man who plotted to kill military members in the U.S. following a delay in the case when a previous judge withdrew.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. as a child, was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty to plotting those attacks after becoming radicalized in Syria. The attacks were never carried out.

The government said Mohamud became a citizen to obtain a U.S. passport. He bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Prosecutors, who are seeking a 23-year sentence, said Mohamud wanted to travel to Texas and capture three or four soldiers and execute them. They said Mohamud, now 26, was trained in Syria and tried to cover up dangerous terrorist activity.

Mohamud and his lawyer, in asking for leniency, have said Mohamud had realized “the immoral and illegal nature of terrorist ideology” and abandoned any plans to engage in terrorism.

Mohamud’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, is asking Judge Michael Watson to consider the light sentence a federal judge in Minnesota handed down in 2016 to a Minnesota man.

In that case, Abdullahi Yusuf, just 20 at the time of sentencing, was convicted of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Syria. Yusuf, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against others, was sentenced to time served in jail of 21 months, plus two decades of supervised release.

Mohamud was originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. Judge James Graham started that hearing, but in a surprise move, he announced he was delaying it to gather more information, including Mohamud’s current state of mind.

Graham also said he wanted information about possible treatment programs for Mohamud during and after prison.

Graham ordered a psychological evaluation of Mohamud and set a new sentencing date. But in December, Graham abruptly withdrew from the case without explanation.

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