A Somali religious scholar claims young Somali-Australians who have gone to Somalia to fight with terrorist group Al-Shabaab have returned and are living in Australia.
When the Federal Government added the Somali Islamist group to its list of banned terrorist organisations last month it cited a string of bombings in east Africa and alleged links to Al Qaeda.
And the terrorism raids in Melbourne last month focused attention on the issue of radicalisation in the Somali community.
Osama bin Laden has even called on Muslims from around the world to join Al-Shabaab’s fight against Somalia’s western-backed government.
Somali-born Islamic scholar Dr Hersi Hilole says Somali community leaders have ongoing concerns about the problem.
“Al-Shabaab is a well-known terrorist organisation,” he said.
“Anyone who joins them can’t get out from them, and whoever tries to get out from them will be killed.”
Dr Hilole says he has spoken to the parents of young men who have gone to fight in Somalia and who have come home to live in Australia.
He says the parents do not know what to do about their ongoing concerns about their own offspring.
“Some of them are worried because they think if the government knows this they will be persecuted maybe, and some others think they may also still be associated with these extremist groups,” he said.
“Even their parents aren’t sure the future of these young people.”
Dr Hilole first raised the alarm about the radicalisation of young Somali Australians in 2007, when he was head of the Somali Community Council of Australia.
“Because these young people dropped from the school, they are not working, so these religious people, or religious teachers encourage them to go to war, rather than spending their time here,” he said.
“Sometimes they encourage them and provide them money and some other facilities that helps them to travel from here and there and so on.”
The claims against the alleged Melbourne terrorist cell are yet to be tested in court but the episode has focused attention on broader concern in the Somali community that a small number of young men, brought up in families fractured by conflict, have lost their way.
“They are worried about their sons because these young people are free now,” Dr Hilole said.
“Parents, especially mothers do not have any control on them. Australian law provides freedom for these young people.’
Federal Police agents have had background contacts with the community and ASIO has a close eye on several mosques.
But the Government did not comment about concerns that young men, who may still be allied to Al-Shabaab, have returned from Somalia to Australia.
Dr Hilole says not enough has been done to check the preachers spreading radical messages in their community.
“The number of families that I talked to still believe that the issue is going on, nothing is done until now and still the young people are at risk.”
Source: ABC News