September 24, 2013

Pingree meets with Maine Somali leaders

By David Hench
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Leaders of Maine’s Somali community met with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents southern Maine, on Tuesday at the Islamic Society of Portland.

Pingree sought the meeting after a weekend terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, was linked – albeit tenuously – to Maine. A list purporting to name the attackers of the Nairobi mall included one person from Maine.

Pingree said nobody in the federal government has confirmed that the list is reliable and there are increasing indications that it is not.

Pingree said she wanted to meet with members of the Somali community to hear firsthand from them about al-Shabab and what the impact had been on their community here following the terrorist attack in Nairobi killed 61 civilians.

“I wanted to have a chance to have a dialog with them about what’s happening and also hear firsthand” about their experiences, Pingree said.

She said the leaders of the community she met with – a dozen people including religious leaders and young people – were upset by the attacks in Kenya. For many of them, Kenya was a second home because when they fled the civil war in Somalia, they sought refuge in neighboring Kenya before coming to the United States.

The Somali leaders, including Abdullahi Ahmed, a science teacher at Deering High School, said they are aware of no efforts to recruit local young Somali men into al-Shabab.

“We tell our kids, as parents and religious teachers, (terrorism) is not Islamic and it is not Somali tradition, Ahmed said.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald.

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