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In the last three months, five Somalis in San Diego have been arrested and charged with terrorism-related crimes.

The arrests, including the leader of one of the city’s few Somali mosques, have reverberated across the city’s Somali refugee population of roughly 15,000, which retains a small-town sense of community even in densely populated City Heights.

The charges allege a local connection to a Somali terrorist group known as al-Shabab. Federal authorities have been investigating those links since last year. At the very least, they elevate public awareness of San Diego’s Somali community — though not in a way most local Somalis would hope.

So how has the news affected everyday Somalis — students, parents, social workers? For many, the headlines threaten the sense of normalcy and community they’ve sought since arriving in San Diego from their war-torn country in the last two decades, as the Union-Tribune’s Peter Rowe reported this weekend.

He writes on how news of the recent arrests has shaken the City Heights Somali community and how some of its members are coping with the accusations against one of its main spiritual leaders, an imam named Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud:

“We feel like Somalis are being targeted,” said Hussein Haye Nur, a video producer. “The leaders who were arrested, we know them as good leaders.”

But [Asad] Mohamed, the [San Diego] police liaison, expressed faith in the American judicial system: “Anti-Muslim feeling really scares the people, but it’s different when it’s the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicting someone. They are not going to be acting on some anti-Islamic feeling.”

On this foggy day, the conversation went back and forth, with no clear resolution.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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