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Man accused in plot to bomb Somali apartments blames others

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A man accused of conspiring to bomb a Kansas apartment complex housing Somali refugees argued Wednesday that he was unaware his co-defendants intended to carry out the attack.

Gavin Wright made the argument in a redacted, 93-page court motion filed by his attorney that offers the first details at his defense strategy. Wright and two other men are charged with conspiring to detonate truck bombs at an apartment complex in Garden City, a meatpacking town about 200 miles (322 kilometers) west of Wichita.

Prosecutors said Wright and co-defendants Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen planned to carry out the attack a day after the November 2016 election. The three men, who were indicted in October, have pleaded not guilty.

The motion portrays Wright as a lonely man desperate to find friends after moving to Liberal, a town in rural western Kansas. It contends Wright believed the talk about surveillance of the Somali Muslim refugee community was only hyperbole.

His attorney, Kari Schmidt, filed the motion while asking a judge to release Wright from jail pending trial. Schmidt argued Wright wasn’t dangerous or a flight risk, and that the government’s evidence against him was weak.

The judge hasn’t ruled on the request. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, Jim Cross, said in an email that he anticipates the government will oppose Wright’s release. Cross declined later to comment on Wright’s allegations in the motion.

According to the motion, Wright struck up a friendship with Allen, who shared many of his political beliefs and his interest in survival prepping and training. Allen introduced Wright to a group associated with the Kansas Security Force citizen militia that included Stein and a confidential informant, according to the court filing.

Some members regularly gathered for Sunday morning coffee to vent their frustrations about then-President Barack Obama, what would happen if Hillary Clinton was elected president — and the Somali refugees living in southwest Kansas.

The conversations included hypotheticals about how to make explosives and destroy bridges, but it was the informant who turned the discussions to targeting Somalis living in Garden City, Schmidt wrote.

The informant told the group money was being wired to Islamic extremists, and that the Somalis had connections to the Mexican Mafia and were using drug proceeds to help finance jihad in the U.S., according to the court motion.

Wright accepted the claims as “banter,” but the informant was actively radicalizing Stein and Allen, Schmidt argued. Wright agreed they should be prepared if members of the Muslim community in Garden City ever became a threat, but it was the informant who suggested taking pre-emptive action, Schmidt wrote.

“While his new friends feared President Obama, the Muslim Brotherhood, a United Nations invasion of the United States, and martial law, Mr. Wright had a much more fundamental and human fear: isolation and loneliness,” Schmidt wrote.

“So when the Sunday group talk turned to undesirable topics, Mr. Wright went along with the talk to get along,” the attorney added. “But Mr. Wright describes such talk as ‘banter’ that he never took seriously.”

She said Wright was concerned about political leadership in the U.S., and had strong feelings about immigration and refugee policies, but didn’t share the fears of his new social group.

Public Defender Melody Brannon, who represents Allen, said in an email that she had “nothing” in response to the Wright’s allegations, adding the motion is unrelated to her client’s status. Jim Pratt, who represents Stein, declined comment.

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Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.

The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.

The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.

Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.

By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.

The sisters attended high school in Staunton.

The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”

The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.

“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”

Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in Norway.

Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.

Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.

“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”

His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.

When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”

It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.

“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.

“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”

Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.

When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.

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