Rep. Peter King has released the witness list for his controversial hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims, scheduled to start Thursday. For weeks King guarded the identities of witnesses who'll testify about terror groups recruiting their families. Now we know their names: Melvin Bledsoe and Abdirizak Bihi. Bledsoe's son is facing murder charges after shooting up a military recruiting center; Bihi's teenage nephew disappeared before resurfacing in Somalia, where he was killed by Al Shabab.
After Carlos Bledsoe was arrested on weapons charges in 2004, he quit smoking weed and converted to Islam, renaming himself Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. Though Muhammad would get angry when watching news about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his family said he seemed to be doing well working for his father's tour guide business. Then, in May 2009, he opened fire on two soldiers smoking outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., killing one and injuring the other. "It's a war going on against Muslims, and that is why I did it," he explained. Muhammad has pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism charges and is being held awaiting trial.
Bledsoe says "evildoers" brainwashed his son, The New York Times' James Dao reported last year. He also thinks the FBI let his son become radicalized--Muhammad had traveled to Yemen, where he was arrested for overstaying his visa. “They didn’t pull the trigger, but they allowed this to happen,” Bledsoe says. “It is owed to the American people to know what happened. If it can happen to my son, it can happen to anyone’s son.”
Bihi was the uncle of Burhan Hassan, a skinny 17-year-old and a good student who disappeared from St. Paul, Minn., in 2009. His family eventually figured out he'd been recruited by the Somalia militia group Al Shabab and was taken to Mogadishu. While there, he was shot in the head on the street by a member Al Shabab, according to Bihi, Hassan's uncle. Bihi, a Somali community leader in the Twin Cities, says he learned through his contacts in Mogadishu that Hassan was trying to get to the American embassy in Nairobi. He says his nephew was shot because the terror group didn't want their recruiting network in Minnesota revealed. Authorities believe more than 20 young Somalis have been recruited by Al Shabab in recent years.
King says he's "not going to give into political correctness" ahead of his hearing, which critics have said is a McCarthyite investigation into a religious minority. The Long Island congressman says he's not trying to play to people's fears, but is just "stating the facts" about terrorists recruiting in America. Nevertheless, the White House has tried to get ahead of King's hearings to reassure Muslims that it does not believe in "guilt by association."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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