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Bomb plot Briton spotlights role of Western Islamists in Africa terror

On Thursday night, Britain's Channel 4 ran this segment about a young man from London who has been charged in Kenya with plotting to detonate a bomb, among other things.

Jermaine Grant's alleged links with insurgents underlines the fear that some Western men traveling to Africa could form part of a growing al-Qaida presence on the continent.

Also on Thursday, The Associated Press ran a story about Americans rising in the ranks inside of al-Shabab, an Somalia-based insurgent group linked to al-Qaida.

The Associated Press wrote:

A handful of young Muslims from the U.S. are taking high-visibility propaganda and operational roles inside an al-Qaida-linked insurgent force in Somalia known as al-Shabab. While most are from Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population in the nation, al-Shabab members include a Californian and an Alabaman with no ancestral ties to Somalia.

"They are being deployed in roles that appear to be shrewdly calculated to raise al-Shabab's international profile and to recruit others, especially those from the United States and other English-speaking countries," said Anders Folk, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted suspected al-Shabab supporters in Minnesota.

Officials fear another terrorist attack in East Africa. Kenya announced on Jan. 7 that it had thwarted attempted al-Shabab attacks over the holidays. The same day, Britain's Foreign Office urged Britons in Kenya to be extra vigilant, warning that terrorists there may be "in the final stages of planning attacks."

More than 40 people have traveled from the U.S. to Somalia to join al-Shabab since 2007, and 15 of them have died, according to a report from the House Homeland Security Committee. Federal investigations into al-Shabab recruitment in the U.S. have centered on Minnesota, which has more than 32,000 Somalis.

At least 21 men have left Minnesota to join al-Shabab in that same time. The FBI has confirmed that at least two of them died in Somalia as suicide bombers. A U.S. citizen is suspected in a third suicide bombing, and another is under investigation in connection with a fourth bombing on Oct. 29 that killed 15 people.

Msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.