On Oct. 29 last year, Shirwa Ahmed drove a car full of explosives up to a government compound in Puntland, a region of northern Somalia, and blew himself up. The blast -- apparently orchestrated by al-Shabab, an Islamic militant group with ties to al-Qaida -- was part of a coordinated attack in two cities that killed more than 20 people. A BBC reporter described body parts flying through the air.
The attackers were "not from Puntland," said Adde Muse, the regional leader. He couldn't have been more right. For most of his life, the Somali-born Ahmed had lived in Minnesota, where he was more accustomed to frigid winters than to the dry, yellow sands of East Africa. The 26-year-old former truck driver with the fluffy beard -- "as American as apple pie," according to one acquaintance -- was the very first American suicide bomber, and a harbinger of a looming crisis. Since Ahmed sneaked into Somalia in late 2007, potentially scores of other young Minnesotans have followed him.