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Issue 425 -- March 20 - 26, 2010
Cdn-Somali Parents Hide Passports To Prevent Kids From Joining Terrorist Group
TORONTO, March 20, 2010 – Some Somali-Canadian parents are hiding their children's passports following reports a student was recruited by a terrorist group and killed fighting for the cause in east Africa, community leaders said Thursday.
Suspicions that Al-Shabaab has been radicalizing and recruiting Canadian youth over a two-year period has parents fearing the worst, they say.
That anxiety has only heightened with the news that Mohammed Elmi Ibrahim, a former University of Toronto student who went missing in 2008, has been killed in Somalia after joining the group.
"I lost my child," Ibrahim's father, Elmi Ibrahim, said Thursday when reached at his Toronto home.
"I am mourning, so please respect our privacy."
According to leaders in the community, Al-Shabaab, an organization aligned with al-Qaida, has been targeting young Canadian men through websites, videos and recruiters.
Ottawa labelled the Somali-based group a terrorist organization earlier in the month, citing the issue of youth recruitment as one reason.
"These young men get radicalized abroad in these diaspora communities," said Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress.
"Once they get radicalized they somehow are lured into fighting for this idealistic utopia."
Worried parents have gone to the extreme.
"They're hiding their passports," said Hussen, who has spoken with parents refusing to give their children their travel documents for trips of any kind.
"You don't know which kid is going to go, there's no profile."
Hussen said he has been in touch with relatives of six young Muslim men who attended the Abu Haraina mosque in Toronto. The young men disappeared last fall.
"I'm told by some of the relatives there were recruiters that came and radicalized these people," said Hussen.
"(They're) appealing to their sense of good versus evil, and (they're) saying come make your life mean more than what it is in Canada, come and join an adventure."
Farah Aw-Osman, executive director of the Canadian Friends of Somalia, said he believes the people behind the recruitment are still in the country.
The community is reeling after hearing about the disappearances and now devastated that a young man has died.
"This is what we were afraid would happen, and it happened, and now we are even more worried," Aw-Osman said in a phone interview from Ottawa.
It's believed that some of the young men were given plane tickets, as the cost of travelling to east Africa is more than $3,000.
The FBI has been investigating the disappearance of about 20 young men who left Minneapolis over the last two years for Somalia, presumably to join Al-Shabaab.
Hussen said Al-Shabaab uses aggressive recruiting techniques, which includes pointing people to websites that push the message of holy war in Somalia.
"It's done in a very hip way," said Hussen.
"There's a white American young man from Alabama who joined the Al-Shabaab and is one of the commanders, and he produced a rap video where he urges young recruits from Canada and the U.S. to come and fight."
But Hussen said the young men are misguided, completely unaware of what they are about to enter.
"It's a one-way ticket. Once you join Al-Shabaab you don't come back."
After leaving Somalia for a better life, many of the parents are struggling to find a reason why their Canadian-born sons would want to do battle in a country unknown to them.
"They don't know what's going on, who has taken their kids... everything is like a bombshell," said Mohamed Dahir, a journalist for a Somali-Canadian television program, and a friend to the families of the missing youth.
Hussen and Aw-Osman said officials have been investigating the disappearances, but RCMP would not confirm if there is an ongoing investigation.
Source: The Canadian Press, March 19, 2010