His afternoon meeting was an urgent matter of national security, but Abdirizak Bihi needed to borrow $10 for the gas necessary to get there. The tank in his old truck had sat empty for days, forcing him to ride around town in a dress shirt and tie on a borrowed girls bicycle with purple handlebars. Now he wanted to travel 10 miles down the freeway, and he wanted to move fast.

He walked out of his high-rise apartment building and stopped a friend on the sidewalk to plead for a loan. "I promise it's for a good cause," he said, and the friend handed over a few bills. Then Bihi drove off to investigate his community's latest homegrown terrorist.

During the previous few days, Bihi, 46, had pieced together some clues that were equal parts surreal and familiar: Farah Mohamed Beledi, 27, had been a Minnesota kid with American problems who ditched classes in high school, joined a gang and answered to the nickname "Bloody." He had gone to prison for stabbing someone at a soccer game and had come out two years later as a radicalized Muslim, spreading stories about the "United Snakes of America" and meeting other men at a Minneapolis mall to talk about jihad.

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