A federal grand jury investigation going on all summer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been focused on a group of 20-30 Somali-Americans allegedly conspiring to join the fight with ISIS in Syria. Most of the youths being investigated have been going to the Al Farooq Youth and Family Center and mosque in Bloomington, where sources told the Star Tribune that 31-year-old Amir Meshal, an American of Egyptian descent, may have influenced them to join the jihadist movement.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been aware of Meshal for quite some time. The native New Jerseyan was detained and interrogated by the agency in 2007 in Kenya, following his escape from Somalia. Meshal admits he attended a terrorist training camp in Somalia, but insists he isn't a terrorist, claiming he went to that war-torn nation to enrich his study of Islam.
A 2009 lawsuit filed by the ACLU on his behalf alleged that after being arrested in a joint U.S.-Kenyan-Ethiopian operation along the Somalia-Kenyan border, Meshal was transferred between jails in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia without ever being charged or having access to counsel. During that time he was allegedly interrogated by two Supervising Special Agents of the FBI more than 30 times, during which he said he was repeatedly threatened with "torture, forced disappearance and other serious harm" in order to coerce a confession. He was ultimately brought back to the United States and released without being charged.