Iraq War veteran and declared Minnesota congressional candidate Chris Kelley criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on Thursday for failing to address the growing terrorism recruitment problem within her own district.
“The first challenge in our area is terrorist recruitment,” Kelley said during an interview with the Jewish Press. “We know for a fact that ISIS has been targeting the young Somali population in our district.”
Minneapolis’ Somali community is often considered to be the terrorist recruitment capital of the United States. Accordingly, Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District that Omar represents is the jurisdiction with the highest rate of terrorism recruitment in the country over the past 12 years, according to FBI statistics.
Forty-five Somalis residing in America left the country to join either ISIS or the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency group al-Shabaab, reported Fox News in February. That number far outpaces other areas where many Muslim refugees have been resettled within the U.S.
“There have been people arrested and charged for conspiring to join ISIS,” Kelley continued. “But, Ilhan has spent more time defending them than condemning them.”
Kelley’s remarks were seemingly in reference to Omar’s plea to a judge in 2016 to show “compassion” to nine men charged with plotting to join ISIS. In her official capacity as a Minnesota state legislator, Omar urged for lighter sentences as a “restorative approach to justice.”
“Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion,” Omar wrote in a letter at the time. “Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment.”
“Regardless of her feelings about [President Donald] Trump, she could have gone to his office and said, ‘Look, we have a problem and I would like your help combating this,’” Kelley added.
Omar received massive criticism after a video surfaced of the Somali-born congresswoman blaming the United States for a deadly attack in Kenya that killed nearly 70 people and wounded another 200. Only weeks after the Muslim jihadi terrorist group al-Shabaab stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013, Omar described the act of jihadist terrorism as a “reaction to our involvement in other people’s affairs.”
“When are we gonna decide or realize that terrorism is a reaction?” Host Ahmen Tharwat asked Omar while appearing on Twin Cities PBS. “It’s an ideology, it’s a means of things, it’s not an entity, it’s not a place, people. It’s a reaction to a situation.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “What you’re insinuating is what nobody wants to face. Nobody wants to face how the actions of other people that are involved in the world have contributed to the rise of the radicalization and the rise of terrorist acts.”
During the same interview, she mocked how Americans speak about other terrorist organizations al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and questioned why they don’t speak about “America” and “the army” in the same way.
Kelley, who served in the Minneapolis Police Department for two decades and in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for 27 years, announced earlier this month that he would be launching a bid to unseat the controversial freshman congresswoman.