Three militia members go on trial Tuesday for plotting to bomb Somali immigrants working in the Kansas Meatpacking Triangle, a constellation of minority-majority, hardscrabble pioneer towns, that depend on foreign labor. Somali immigrants have all but abandoned one town, despite civic and police efforts to reassure them that they’re safe there. Some residents want them to return.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now to Kansas. Three members of a militia group are scheduled to go on trial tomorrow for what prosecutors say was a plot to bomb an apartment complex full of Muslim Somali immigrants. The alleged plot rattled people in the three rural southwest Kansas communities that form what is known as the Meatpacking Triangle. As Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports, it has also sparked an exodus of immigrants from one of the towns.
FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: The bomb plot allegedly took root right where I’m standing here by an old, rusty, metal Quonset hut in Wright, Kan., a few miles from Dodge City. Patrick Stein lived here in a trailer, since been removed. And the FBI says that Stein was stockpiling weapons and ammunition until one morning in October of 2016.
CHELSEA BRADVILLE: My kids went out to go to school and there were cops with assault rifles everywhere.
MORRIS: Chelsea Bradville lives a couple of doors down from Stein’s old place in this tiny town of 160 on the spare, dry plains of southwestern Kansas.
BRADVILLE: And we don’t even have cars that drive by our house really, so, you know, it was really scary.
MORRIS: Prosecutors say that months before the raid, a paid informant began recording Stein as he allegedly prepared to bomb and shoot up an apartment complex containing a mosque 60 miles away in Garden City. According to the indictment, those recordings are full of hateful, racist screeds against Muslim immigrants with Stein claiming that refugees were taking jobs from white workers. This is a staunchly conservative part of Kansas.
The pickup in Chelsea Bradville’s driveway has a black assault rifle decal in the rear window.
But Bradville has an abiding respect for the Hispanic, Asian and African immigrants doing hard, dirty work in the area’s meatpacking plants.
BRADVILLE: That’s, you know, very intensive labor and there’s a lot of the community that just doesn’t want to do that, you know, and they do. They don’t care. They’ll do the hard work and make it.
MORRIS: That’s a widely held view around here. Ninety miles to the southwest, hundreds of immigrants work at the huge slaughterhouse in the hardscrabble town of Liberal, Kan.
EARL WATT: This is a place for you get a chance to get started.
MORRIS: Earl Watt runs the High Plains Daily Leader and Times newspaper here in Liberal, the town where Patrick Stein allegedly found two men eager to join his plot to attack Somali immigrants.
WATT: The Crusaders or I’ve heard some other militia names that they were called.
MORRIS: Prosecutors say the two other Crusaders, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, work in Liberal making explosives, identifying targets and developing a manifesto declaring war on Muslim immigrants. Defense attorneys won’t comment so close to trial, but Watt thinks the defense may argue that the men were lured into the bomb plot by FBI agents.
WATT: If it’s proven to be true, these guys are associated with something that was pure evil and it was happening right under a lot of our noses. That’s scary.
MORRIS: Especially scary if you are the intended target.
AMBYIO FARAH: Like, it was kind of shocking to me to believe that someone wants to bomb me because of my religion or where I’m from, you know?
MORRIS: Ambyio Farah is an 18-year-old refugee from Somalia and a U.S. citizen. She says she’s one of the few from her native country still in Liberal, that close to 200 Somalis have fled. And you can clearly see that here at what used to be a thriving African grocery store.
FARAH: This is the place. It used to be the place, but now it’s a ghost town. There’s no one here.
MORRIS: It’s locked up, it’s dark.
FARAH: It used to be really beautiful, have all these African lightings and have someone standing here dressed in their African clothing just to welcome you, say hi.
MORRIS: Farah says a lot of Somalis from Liberal have moved to Garden City, Kan., about 60 miles north of here, joining a larger Somali community, the one allegedly targeted for attack by men going on trial tomorrow.
Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident
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.
CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing
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.”
When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from 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.