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Pingree Visits Somali Community in Portland
09/24/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree met with Somali leaders in Portland this afternoon to discuss reports that link one of the terrorists who attacked a mall in Kenya to Maine. The report is unconfirmed and members of the Maine Somali community have condemning the attack, and repeated assurances that they know of no connection.

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Chellie Pingree, Mohamed Yusuf, and Abdullahi AhmedIt was a twitter feed that presumably came from the terrorist organization al-Shabab, the group claiming responsibility for the mall attack, that listed one of the attackers as being from Maine. After meeting with Somali leaders behind closed doors for about 45 minutes, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) told reporters the allegation has not been confirmed, and some of the sources behind it have been discredited.

"Certainly no one in this community knows of any connection," Pingree. "They have, I think, a very good relationship with the law enforcement community and the FBI. But at this point, it's a rumor that nobody knows anything about."

Pingree said she's never heard of any unusual terrorist-related activity in Maine, and others in attendance emphasized that Somalis have come here to escape the violence of al-Shabab.

"Only those people who don't have peace know what peace means," Pingree said.

Local businessman Osman Hersi, is a member of the Somali community in Maine.

"Only those people who don't have peace know what peace means," said Hersi. "Here, we have peace. So how can we destroy this peace? And we would not do anything that would harm Maine, US, and America."

After all Hersi said, Kenya was many Somalis' second home before coming to the US. There are about 6,000 in the greater Portland area, and for many, like Mohamed Yusuf, Maine has been home since he was a child.

"Some of the concerns, ya know, that there is recruitment here is baseless, it's senseless," Yusuf said. "And we've lived alongside you for a long time, and will continue to do so."

Abdullahi Ahmed said the Somali community has never heard any account of al-Shabab recruiting in the state, and that the community actively denounces the terrorist organization.

"We tell our community members that what they're doing, it's not Islamic, or it's not in the Somali tradition," Ahmed said. "So we already pre-empted this. And in our prayers and our ceremonies we always talk about terrorism is not a part of our religion, terrorism is an international issue, and the international community needs to come together to end this once and for all."

Somalis in Maine are not warriors, said Ahmed. They are Americans.

Photo by Patty Wight.


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