One of two suicide bombers who attacked African Union troops on October 29, 2011, was an American citizen, according to the Al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist organization Al Shabaab.
Abdisalan Hussein Ali, 22, was identified by his family in an audio message claiming credit for the bombing. The recorded message was released on the day of the attack by Al Shabaab on an affiliated Web site.
According to Somali security officials, at least 10 people were killed in a two-hour firefight between Al Shabaab fighters and African Union and Somali troops. Al Shabaab has claimed that over 80 were killed in the attack.
Ali was born in Somalia and moved to the United States with his family in 2000, where he was elected president of the Somali Student Association in high school. He was one of ten Minnesotans charged in August 2010 with providing material support to terrorists for their various connections to Al Shabaab.
In the nine-minute English-language audio recording claiming credit for the bombing, Ali says that jihad is an individual obligation for all Muslims. He tells his "brothers and sisters" that "jihad is what is most important… do jihad in America, do jihad in Canada, do Jihad in English, anywhere in Europe, In Asia, in Africa, in Chia, in Australia, anywhere you find kuffar [infidels], fight them and be firm against them." He ironically claims that "it is not important that you become a doctor," given his desire to study medicine at the University of Minnesota prior to leaving for Somalia in 2008.
He warns his listeners in the West not to "just sit around and be a… couch potato and… just chill all day" because that is not to anyone's benefit. Instead they should "go and just see the state of the Muslims… and watch videos, you know, go on the internet, you know, read." He concludes his message by calling on his listeners to "do what is right" and emigrate to the "land of jihad."
A wave of Americans have traveled to Somalia to fight with Al Shabaab since 2007, around the time the group stepped up its insurgency against Somalia's transitional governments and its Ethiopian supporters. These Americans have received weapons training alongside recruits from other countries, including Britain, Australia, Sweden and Canada. The recruits have used the training to fight against Ethiopian forces, African Union troops, and the internationally-supported Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, according to court documents.
If his identity is confirmed, Ali would become the third American suicide bomber and the second American bomber in less than six months. Farah Mohamad Beledi, also from Minneapolis, carried out an attack at the end of May 2011 in which three troops were killed. The first American suicide bomber in Somalia, Shirwa Ahmed, carried out a suicide bombing at the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Hargeisa killing 24 people in October 2009. Federal investigators have also investigated reports about another American who was allegedly involved in a suicide attack in Mogadishu in September 2009 that killed 21 people. The identity of that attacker has never been confirmed.