The family of Jamal Bana discovered a photo of his body on a website. He was shot in the head. Others also may have died.
Minneapolis . St Paul, Minnesota
By RICHARD MERYHEW and ALLIE SHAH, Star Tribune staff writers
Saturday, July 11, 2009
A third Minneapolis Somali man has been killed in his homeland, community leaders said Saturday, his family having learned his fate by stumbling onto a website that contained photos of his bloody corpse.
While the body was identified only as that of a "foreign jihadist" or "fighter," a closeup of the face left Jamal Bana's mother with no doubt. The young man had been shot through the temple.
FBI officials said Saturday they could not confirm the news.
Abdirizak Bihi, a community activist who visited with Bana's mother at her south Minneapolis home Saturday, said that Bana's family learned of his death early Saturday while searching the web for news on the fighting in Mogadishu.
"They kept scanning the website for Somali news and there it was," he said. "What made it worse is that the mom saw the dead body."
The circumstances of Bana's death are unclear.
Bana, 20, was a former student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College who also worked part-time as a security guard. He was among a group of up to 20 young men from the Twin Cities who abruptly left their homes last summer and fall to return to their native country.
Federal authorities have been investigating the possible connection between terrorist groups and the disappearances since last fall, when Shirwa Ahmed, 26, of Minneapolis, apparently blew himself up in Somalia in a coordinated attack that killed up to 30 people.
A second youth, Burhan Hassan, who was a senior at Roosevelt High School when he left home Nov. 4 and who is Bihi's nephew, was killed in Somalia last month. Like Bana, he was shot in the head.
Bihi said Bana's body was placed on a stretcher in the presidential palace in Mogadishu. He said Bana was initially identified as a "foreign jihadist" from Bangladesh, and then later, from Afghanistan.
He said the family has heard that Jamal may have been killed in the fighting that has overwhelmed Mogadishu, but also may have been shot after having been taken captive.
Bihi said Saturday that there are rumors that "three or four" others who returned to Somalia may also have been killed, including a Minneapolis man believed to be one of the first to leave Minnesota for Somalia. The man also is believed to have been a primary recruiter of other young Twin Cities Somali men, according to a local Somali source. Late Saturday Bihi said the family of 30-year-old Zakaria Maruf indicated they had received word that Maruf was dead.
Bihi described Bana as a bright, sensitive man who helped his mother care for several siblings who are disabled and his bed-ridden father. "His family depended on him. He was the guy who took care of his siblings."
A source close to the family, who asked not to be identified, said that Bana was outgoing and loved playing basketball, working on cars and hanging out at the mall.
But prior to leaving for Somalia, "almost overnight, his personality changed," he said.
A friend of Shirwa Ahmed's who also knew Bana but who asked not to be identified, said Bana became "very fascinated with the religion."
The source said he spoke with one of Bana's relatives recently and was told that Bana had called home not long ago and said in a hushed tone that he had been tricked into returning. He said he thought he was going to "get an education and learn about religion," the source said. Bana told the relative, "they fooled us."
Bihi said that the young men who left the Twin Cities for their homeland had "no clue about Somali tradition, the Somali clan issues. They have no clue what Somalia is."
He said the Twin Cities Somali community, the largest in the United States, anxiously awaits the outcome of the federal investigation.
"We are very confident about the investigation, and we are very confident about the process," Bihi said. "But we want to see justice. ... We are all anxious to get this all behind us."