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2 Young Ghanaians Recruited By ISIS


Ghana has become the latest African country to watch its young people lured by the Islamic State. Authorities say two Ghanaians, one, a recent university graduate, have left the country with the intention of going to fight with ISIS. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports on a devastated family struggling to cope with the abrupt departure of a son.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Twenty-five-year-old geography graduate Nazir Nortei Alema, a devout Muslim, completed his post-university Ghana government national service in July. Shortly afterwards, he told his parents he was traveling for work from home in the capital, Accra, to a mining town in Ghana's western region. His father, Abdul Latif Alema, takes up the story.

ABDUL LATIF ALEMA: For about three days since leaving, no communication between him and us, which is not his nature.

QUIST-ARCTON: Alema describes how, about a week later, they received a message from their son who he'd had last seen on August 2. He told them, oh, my father, oh, my mother, do not be worried about the decision of your son.

ALEMA: No communication again until on the 16, that he sent another message that he was on his way to join the Islamic State - yes.

QUIST-ARCTON: The father says they're still in shock.

ALEMA: It's like we're in a state of mourning, you know? It's like someone in the family has died.

QUIST-ARCTON: With a Muslim minority, Ghana has so far been spared extremist insurgency and the blight of deadly violence by militant groups like nearby Nigeria's Boko Haram. Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, spokesman for the Muslim religious leader, says the phenomenon of ISIS and its hold over some Muslim youth is of great concern to Ghana's chief imam.

ARMIYAWO SHAIBU: He has been talking to us with respect to how, as a faith community, we would be able to make a contribution into what improves the security situation in our country.

QUIST-ARCTON: Abdul Latif Alema says his son, the graduate, was an observant Muslim but not extreme, though he acknowledges he spent too much time glued to the Internet. The chief imam spokesman says they've also identified Internet addiction as a problem among the youth.

SHAIBU: We are also worried about the use of the social media, which is beyond what we can control.

QUIST-ARCTON: He says the imam is in touch with Ghana's national security team to offer help where the Muslim leadership can.

SHAIBU: We are hoping that through the ideas that we put together, Ghana will not be a base of ISIS or Boko Haram in this country.

QUIST-ARCTON: But the young man's father, Abdul Latif Alema, says his wife is inconsolable.

ALEMA: Nobody's happy. And as for his mom, she keeps on crying every day. She's always crying and then fasting, praying that her son returns home.

QUIST-ARCTON: Ghanaians worry other want-to-be ISIS recruits may be waiting in the wings. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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