“Amaani” describes it as feeling like she can’t swallow, as sudden and terrifying as a tornado, like a psychological bruise. And so unexpected.

Growing up, Abdifatah Ahmed had been the brother of her childhood best friend. He was kind, fun. They married in 2010. He eventually moved into her Bartlett Street apartment in Lewiston, then bounced between Minnesota and Maine. It took two years before the marriage imploded.

He wanted a second wife. She didn’t.

A week after their divorce last fall, she would later find out, he left the country.

Ahmed traveled to Syria and joined Islamic State, the radical Islamic group that has beheaded three Western journalists, carried out other public executions and killed thousands in taking over large areas of Iraq. According to news reports, Ahmed died fighting there last month with another Minnesota man.

Amaani said the FBI has visited her three times.

She said she’s as confused as anyone about her ex-husband’s actions.

The vitriol started on social media immediately: She was to blame, driving him to leave the country to join the Islamic State. He was going to heaven, and she was going to hell.

Or, if they abhorred what Ahmed had done, they called Amaani and her children terrorists, too.

Amaani wanted to tell her story and come to her own defense. The Sun Journal isn’t using her real name for her safety and the safety of her children.

What she had to say offers a rare glimpse behind headlines last month in Minneapolis newspapers that show a grinning man raising a rifle above stories reporting his death that say only that he had nine children, had difficulty supporting them and walked away. The stories tell little about how a once-moderate Muslim man who lived in Lewiston became radicalized to the point of losing his life in Syria.

For Amaani, it was the second devastating loss at the hands of Islamic extremists. They killed Amaani’s father in Ethiopia when she was 10, gunning him down when they targeted his Christian driver.

“I lose two people in my life for that agenda? Should I lose myself as well?” she said. “Things happen and they will move forward. You can’t just sit and cry.”

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