VOA Exclusive: Family of Somali-American Fighter in Syria Speaks Out

Weeks after photos surfaced of two Somali-Americans allegedly killed fighting with Islamist militants in Syria, the father of one man is still waiting for official confirmation that his son is dead.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Dayib Ahmed Abdi told VOA Somali in an exclusive interview that he does not have conclusive evidence his 29-year-old son Abdifatah Dayib Ahmed, also known as Abdirahman Muhumed, was fatally wounded in battle earlier this year.

“I was very sad when I heard it,” Abdi said. “Why he would go to an Arab land, I asked myself. They [Arab countries] don’t help us, instead the United States helped us. Why he chose to leave this good land, I asked. I was very unhappy.”

Muhumed is one of about a dozen Somali-American men and women who have traveled from Minnesota to join jihadist groups in Syria.

His family said they didn’t know about his travels, how he was recruited or who helped him travel. They described the father of eight as “open and friendly,” and his father believes whoever recruited him took advantage of that openness.

Muhumed came to the U.S. in 1996, at a time when tens of thousands of Somali families moved to Minnesota, fleeing civil war in their home country. Abdi said as soon as the family arrived, his sons “went their ways.”

“He was not alone in that, but all of my sons went their ways, none of them have involved me with their issues. Therefore I don’t know how he managed to travel, the reasons behind it, who he traveled with, or who helped him get there [Syria],” saud Abdi.

The U.S. government has not confirmed Muhumed’s death, but is aware of the photos that circulated in late August. Officials did, however, acknowledge that another Minnesota man, Douglas McAuthur McCain, was the first known American to be killed while fighting alongside Islamic militants in Syria.

Abdi said he does not understand why young Somali men who fled civil war in Somalia would turn their backs on the United States, which he said welcomed and helped them.

He said he would have preferred his son become a U.S. soldier.

“Somali youngsters who are hanging around the street corners should have been drafted into the U.S. military. They don’t have jobs, and some have become alcoholics when they could not find a job. Young Somali men who are over 20 should be recruited into the military or police. Somalis are good at being soldiers,” said Abdi.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Somali service.

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