Local Somali draws scrutiny from FBI. Agency questions him upon return from trip to Africa.

Halkaan ka akhri

A Columbus man who says he was elected the leader of a region of Somalia in 2009 apparently is the target of a federal terrorism investigation into his activities in that country.

If the feds are looking into Sulieman Ahmed’s activities, it could be the first such examination of the local community.

Ahmed said FBI agents stopped him at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Jan. 30 and told him they had reviewed information on the Internet that indicated he was engaged in fighting in Somalia.

“I told them that was not true,” Ahmed said.

And, he said, a number of people in Columbus’ Somali community recently have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in Columbus about Ahmed and his regional administration.

Somalia has been mired in brutal civil war for two decades, and many people have fled the country.

Siad Adam, who is from the same region of Somalia as Ahmed, said he testified before the grand jury on

Feb. 10. The Northland resident said he was questioned about the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regional administration of Somalia, the organization of which Ahmed said he was elected president.

Adam said authorities wanted to know whether the SSC is involved in terrorist activities and about Ahmed’s activities in Somalia. Adam said he told them Ahmed has not instigated any violence.

Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Columbus, said he could not comment on Ahmed or the grand jury investigation.

Columbus is home to the country’s second-largest Somali population, behind the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Federal investigations based in Minneapolis resulted in indictments in August against 14 Somalis there on charges related to terrorism and in November against 29 on charges of sex trafficking.

Ahmed, 42, said he was elected president of the SSC regional administration in northern Somalia during a 2009 conference of 600 leaders in Nairobi, Kenya.

That region has been the scene of increased violence among competing clans, said Pamela Fierst, senior Somalia desk officer for the U.S. State Department’s African Affairs bureau in Washington.

But it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s going on. News coverage is scant, and Somali websites provide conflicting information about what is happening in the region and who’s involved.

“We don’t have a lot of eyes on the ground,” Fierst said. “It’s an extremely complicated place.”

Ahmed said on Monday that he had flown to Washington last week and met with Fierst. “We talked about who we are, what we do,” he said. “We told them that we are simply trying to help our country.”

Fierst said Ahmed and SSC secretary Mohamoud Jama talked about U.S. policy concerning Somalia.

“They were here to have a very standard discussion, pitching their position with the U.S. government.”

She said he told her that his group does not promote conflict.

“Everybody’s ‘peace, love and happiness’ when they meet with me,” she said.

Ahmed said he flew to Somalia in February 2010 to help people there. He said he tried to return to the United States in December but was placed on the no-fly list.

Eventually, he was allowed to fly home. He said two FBI agents met him at the Atlanta airport and interviewed him for two hours.

Ahmed said members of other clans are misleading authorities about him. He said his opponents have told people that he kills women and children.

“I went back to that country to help my people, not put gas on the fire,” he said, adding that he opposes Somaliland succession and favors a united Somalia. He said that the competing Isaaq clan, which he said supports secessionism, is attacking his Dhulbahante clan.

Jama wrote in a Feb. 16 blog post that the Dhulbahante have launched an “armed political movement to expel the Somaliland presence from their ancestral land.”

FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said that, as a matter of policy, he could not confirm the existence of any investigation.

Ahmed said he lives near Tamarack Circle on the city’s North Side. He is married with nine children – six daughters and three sons ages 3 to 21 years.

He said he opened a home health-care business in Columbus in 2004 and once worked at St. Stephen’s Community House in the Linden area.

A 2009 American Community Survey estimated that 9,790 Somalis live in Columbus. However, the nonprofit Community Research Partners in Columbus estimated two years ago that the population was 15,000. Some estimates are as high as 40,000.

Source: Dispatch


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