The standoff is now in its third night. Authorities in Kenya and the U.S. believe there were at least 17 attackers who stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, and two may have been killed. Investigators say one of the terrorists with al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda offshoot, is believed to be from Illinois. Several others are from Minneapolis and Kansas City. The al-Shabaab organization has a growing presence in the U.S., and according to federal agents, is known to be recruiting in Illinois and throughout the Midwest.
They were shots heard halfway around the world when gunmen with the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terror group blitzed a popular shopping mall. Homeland security officials in Chicago and Minneapolis were paying particular attention.
"The concentration of unemployed, young Somali men in places like Minneapolis/St. Paul are sort of ripe to radicalize," said Brad Garrett, former FBI agent.
U.S. intelligence officials say al-Shabaab is one of the only al-Qaeda splinter groups to actually recruit here in the U.S. for operations overseas. American investigators count about 50 known U.S. converts to radical al-Shabaab. That includes Chicagoan Shaker Masri, who is now serving a 10-year sentence for his role in an al-Shabaab plot that included a planned suicide attack on soldiers.
At a Muslim center in Minneapolis Monday afternoon, Islamic leaders said they were outraged that several hometown radicals and a man from Illinois were linked to the Nairobi mall attack.
"This outrageous act of violence has no place in Islam. The perpetrators of this barbaric act do not share our Islamic values. In fact, extremists groups and its affiliate al-Shabaab, have done more harm to Islam and Muslims over the years," said Abdisalam Adam, Somali-American.
"They are organized gang of bandits or criminals who have conspired to kill and destroy innocent lives. And their main goal is to destabilize countries to create chaos in the world and destroy innocent lives," said Ibrahim Baraki, Kenya community activist.
An investigation by the House Homeland Security Committee found that al-Shabaab is recruiting young American Muslims in not only Illinois and Minnesota but also Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Texas and California.
On Monday, those community leaders put out a stern warning to teenagers who are approached by extremist recruiters: don't get involved.
House Homeland Security Investigation: Al-Shabaab