‘Our own backyard has become the battleground’: DHS awards $10 million in grants to prevent terrorist recruitment

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    john kellyAssociated Press/Susan Walsh

    The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that it has awarded 26 grants totaling $ 10 million to communities across the US in an effort to fight radicalization and recruitment of American citizens by terrorist groups.

    The awards are part of the department’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Grant Program, which gives money to city and state governments, as well as private organizations, to develop programs that combat terrorism and extremist ideology.

    Many of the grant recipients are local police departments, but the award winners also include community groups that can intervene with susceptible young people before they become radicalized through the internet propaganda of international terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida.

    “We are witnessing a global surge in terrorist activity, and in many ways our own backyard has become the battleground,” said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in a Friday news release. “That is why DHS is focused on stepping up efforts to counter terrorist recruitment and radicalization, including through close collaboration with state and local partners.”

    Congress appropriated the $ 10 million for the CVE program in 2015, the first time the government had set aside funding specifically for local police, community centers and nonprofit groups to use in fighting the spread of extremist ideology. Following a call for applications in July 2016, DHS received nearly 200 applications from organizations in 40 states.

    The grant recipients were selected for their ability to build “prevention programs” that address root causes of violent extremism and reverse further radicalization in already susceptible communities, according to DHS.

    Two significant grants were awarded to organizations in Minneapolis, which is home to a large concentration of Somali immigrants. Several Somali men from Minneapolis have either attempted to support Islamic terror groups or have traveled overseas to join ISIS.

    Recognizing the unique danger, DHS awarded $ 347,600 to the Hennepin Country Sheriff’s Office, which covers Minneapolis, and $ 423,340 to the Heartland Democracy Center, a civic engagement nonprofit that works in the Twin Cities area.

    Kelly says DHS will keep close tabs on the results of the programs to determine which can serve as a model for future grants.

    “Shortly after starting at DHS, I requested a thorough policy review of the CVE Grant Program to ensure taxpayer dollars go to programs with the highest likelihood of success, that support the men and women on the front lines of this fight, and that can be self-sustaining into the future,” he said. “We will closely monitor these efforts to identify and amplify promising approaches to prevent terrorism.”

    For a full list of the CVE grant recipients, go here.

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