Terrorist Recruitment and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Programs in Minneapolis-St. Paul – April 2015


While this qualitative field study has ended, the work in Minneapolis-St. Paul is far from over. This study was the first step on a long road to addressing the chronic challenges in the Minnesota Somali community and halting ISIL’s recruitment efforts. The findings are critical to the larger global effort to defeating and destroying ISIL. The most essential findings are that:

  • ISIL has appropriated the al Shabaab recruiting network in Minneapolis-St. Paul;
  • Recruitment in Minnesota includes face-to-face interaction and is not solely a social media-driven effort;
  • One of the core factors in vulnerability to recruitment is a young person’s crisis of identity; and
  • There are individuals and organizations in Minneapolis-St. Paul who are adept at securing government funding without effecting any real change in the community.

Just as important as these findings, however, is that the report authors now hold strong relationships with many members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Somali community and have opportunities to expand our network of sources and elicit even more critical information. As noted above, the Somali community desires help in preventing their young people from being drawn abroad, provided they are approached as partners in the effort. The report authors evidenced this approach to CVE during the course of this study, and going forward, continued collaboration will yield the greatest benefit to the community, as well as great gains for U.S. national security and the fight against ISIL.

Considering next steps, members of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office have offered to coordinate a series of roundtable discussions between community religious leaders, law enforcement and the report authors. The information gleaned from these conversations will be invaluable in continuing to understand the nature of the evolving foreign fighter threat and how CVE programs can be developed to address it.

Following on findings in this study, the report authors are preparing to return to Minnesota to speak with a wider sample of the Twin Cities age cohort potentially vulnerable to recruitment so as to more finely understand the nuances and factors that recruiters exploit in the community. In addition, the report authors will also strive to specifically identify ISIL recruiters in the community.

The incredible access and trust the community has offered will undoubtedly lead to information and insights that can only be gained through collaboration and collective agreement that ISIL recruiters can, will, and must be defeated. The report authors, as well as the sources for this study, are committed to continuing their research, analysis, and support until terrorist recruiters are expelled from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Read the report reference list.

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