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Minnesota groups seek money to keep youths from extremism

A youth soccer coach and a Somali community advocate are among those seeking funds in Minnesota for programs to combat terror recruiting

Minnesota groups seek money to keep youths from extremism

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A community advocate who spends his days helping Somali families and a youth soccer coach who works to keep kids off the street are among the people lining up for a crack at federal and private funds aimed at stopping terror recruiting.

Friday was the deadline for applicants to request roughly $400,000 in money being administered by a nonprofit entity as part of Minnesota's efforts to stamp out violent extremism. The program is part of a three-city pilot project, which includes Boston and Los Angeles, launched more than a year ago by the Obama administration.

Minneapolis' program, called Building Community Resilience, focuses on the state's large Somali community, which has been fertile ground for terrorism recruiters. More than 22 men have left the state since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia, and roughly a dozen people have left in recent years to join militants in Syria.

It was unclear how many people or groups had applied for funding by Friday's deadline. Grant awards will be announced March 9.

Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said he's excited about the program's progress and he's trying to get additional funding, both federal and private. He pointed to a bill Obama signed into law in December that includes $50 million for efforts that combat terrorism as a possible source. Luger noted that $10 million of that appropriation is specifically for states' efforts to prevent violent extremism, though it's not yet known how much of that money will flow to Minnesota.

Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, is among those who requested money. On any given day, a half-dozen or more community members are lined up outside Noor's office, seeking help for legal troubles, jobs or for housing issues. This week, one mother came to him about a teenage son on the verge of getting kicked out of school. In those situations, Noor works with parents, schools and teens to stop bad situations from getting worse.

Noor said he is proposing "a community transformation" that will include education, mentoring and job training. While he knows the money available won't cover all the community's needs, he said he hopes it will lead to efforts that the community can sustain.

"The bottom line is, we are going to try to come up with a comprehensive program that addresses the youth and links them to the community, links them to their times, links them to their neighborhood," he said. Any money would likely go toward hiring qualified mentors and counselors who can connect with youth, he said.

Some community members who were interested in applying for grants chose not to in the end.

Mohamed Ahmed, who runs AverageMohamed.com and creates cartoons to try to persuade kids not to join extremist groups, said his group discussed whether it should take money that comes via the Department of Justice; some in the community distrust the government..

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