TORONTO, 12 December 2009 (Somalilandpress) – They hung out at a Somali restaurant in “Little Mogadishu” in the northwest corner of the city, played basketball together, and worshipped at a North York mosque.

The five friends, in their early to mid-20s, grew up and attended schools in Toronto. They spoke English and Somali. At least two of them were university students.

That is, until all five disappeared.

No one recalls them ever causing trouble. But the Star has learned Canadian intelligence officials were watching at least one of the young men several months before he mysteriously left home.

Mahad Dhorre, Mustafa Mohamed, Mohamed Abscir and a fourth we know only as Ahmed vanished the first week of November. A fifth, Ahmed Elmi, left his home in Scarborough about three months ago. A sixth man, an Afghan, who worshipped at the same mosque, is also reportedly missing.

Their passports are missing and they haven’t called home. The overwhelming fear is that – like at least 20 young Somali-American men in Minneapolis who have disappeared in the past two years, and others from Australia, Sweden and Britain – the young men are en route to Somalia to fight alongside al Shabaab, an Islamist youth militia aligned with Al Qaeda.

The Shabaab, which is fighting the government, is often called Somalia’s Taliban. Its increasingly savvy online presence is being blamed as a possible reason for the disappearance of the five Canadians. And Somali community leaders fear other young people will be targeted as long as they feel alienated in this country, and embraced by another.

“These people can speak in their language and lure them from right under our nose,” said Ahmed Hussen, the Ottawa-based president of the Canadian Somali Congress, adding people in the community have told him chat rooms were also used to lure the missing men. “We won’t even know what’s going on.”

THE FIRST Somali-Canadian to leave the country was Ahmed Elmi. The 22-year-old vanished in early September. A month later, friends say, he called his parents and told them he was in Kismayo, a port city in southern Somalia where the Shabaab has ruled for more than a year.

Those who knew Elmi wonder how a boy who grew up in a quiet Scarborough community would flee to a city plagued by violence.

Elmi’s soft-spoken father said the family is still in shock and trying to understand what happened. He declined to be interviewed.

RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers are investigating the disappearances, canvassing areas in Little Mogadishu and questioning families.

But six months ago, CSIS agents paid a visit to the Scarborough condominium complex where another of the missing men, Mustafa Mohamed, lived with his family, says the building’s property manager.

“They said there was some kind of suspicious Internet activity and the family was under surveillance,” said Raees Akhtar.

On the second floor of the building, Mohamed’s mother, Shukri, was too distraught to talk. “I’m not ready …,” she said from behind the closed door of her apartment.

A friend said the family hadn’t heard from Mohamed. “(Shukri) is very upset,” she said. “She doesn’t know what to do … She has other younger children, too, and she’s worried about them.”

During questioning, RCMP officers have shown photographs to the families and queried them about their sons’ activities.

“(The families) are just as bewildered … they are also looking for answers,” said Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, president of the Somali Canadian National Council.

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MAHAD DHORRE was only about 6 when he left Somalia. He and his adoptive mother spent about four years in a refugee camp before they arrived in Canada in the mid-1990s, friends say.

His father died in Somalia; his biological mother still lives there.

The gangly, bearded youth from Markham grew up playing basketball, watching baseball and dreamed of going to university.

“He liked going to the mosque but there was nothing radical about him,” said Yusuf Arshame, a friend who has known Dhorre for years.

Dhorre was studying math and history at York University when he decided to take a break this summer. He started working at the bookstore at Abu Huraira Islamic Centre, the mosque in North York where the five hung out.

Arshame says Dhorre began socializing less and spending more time at the mosque. In October, Dhorre flew to Nairobi with his mother. Days later, he disappeared.

Abdul Warsame, a youth leader in the community, first met Dhorre at a conference this summer. “He was smart and funny,” recalls Warsame. “One of the first things he said was `I know most of you think we (from the city’s east end) are uptight. But we are not different.’ That’s the kind of a guy he was – always speaking his mind.”

They quickly became friends. He last saw Dhorre during Ramadan, then weeks later he went missing.

OF THE 20 or so Somali-Americans who have gone missing, at least five have been killed in Somalia. One died in a suicide bombing in October 2008, part of coordinated attacks that killed 20 people.

Osman Ahmed’s nephew, Bashir Hasan, vanished more than a year ago, resurfacing in southern Somalia. He died three months ago.

“He was 17 … he was naive,” said

Ahmed, a Minneapolis-based businessman. Three months before Hasan disappeared in November 2008, he was filling out university applications, planning his future as a lawyer. “And suddenly, he was gone,” said Ahmed, who believes his nephew was enticed by the Shabaab over the Internet.

Days before he died, Hasan called his mother and told her he wanted to come home. “And then, we got a call saying he was dead,” said Ahmed, who believes Shabaab executed him. “You only leave as a martyr … there’s no other way out.”

His is one of the few Minneapolis families to speak publicly about their loss. “We’ve lost as a family, we didn’t want to lose more as a community,” said Ahmed.

But it hasn’t stopped other young Somali-Americans from trying to join the Shabaab. About two weeks ago, four young men, two under the age of 16, were stopped while trying to fly to Kenya through Chicago.

Two days earlier, U.S. federal officials announced terrorism charges against eight men, seven of whom are still at large. It brought to 14 the total from Minneapolis who have been indicted or pleaded guilty for allegedly indoctrinating, recruiting or training local youths to join militia-waged war in Somalia.

Omar Jamal, a well-known advocate for the Somali diaspora in the U.S., said Toronto community leaders must ensure mosques play no role in radicalization. “We have to do everything to keep our kids safe. … We can’t let them go to a place we left years ago.”

In Minneapolis, some families of missing men have accused certain mosques of radicalizing their sons.

In Toronto, the North York mosque where the five Toronto men worshipped has come under scrutiny since they disappeared.

The Abu Huraira mosque, located in a nondescript building in an industrial area near Sheppard Ave. and Highway 404, was the first to alert police that the men were missing. “The parents came to us and we immediately told (police),” said administrator Omar Kireh.

He stressed the men only “occasionally worshipped at the mosque over the years,” adding the mosque has no hardline agenda. The mosque, with a congregation of about 1,000 mostly Somali-Canadians, holds classes for youth, he said, where they are encouraged to stay out of gangs and guns.

It became the subject of controversy a couple of months ago when Saed Rageah, the mosque’s charismatic young imam, gave a controversial sermon interpreted by some as an attack on those calling for a ban on the niqab and burqa.

Rageah later said he had been misinterpreted. The Star could not reach him for comment.

Members of the congregation, however, describe Rageah as traditional, but not radical. And the Somali community believes the mosque had nothing to do with the disappearance of the men, although some suspect they may have been targeted there.

“It’s not a coincidence that all worshipped here and disappeared at almost the same time,” said Ahmed Yusuf, a Somali-Canadian social worker. “The question is how, and can it be done again.”

THAT BOTHERS many Somali-Canadians in Toronto.

There are stories of how mothers have hidden their grown-up sons’ passports while other family members keep an eye on them. Some mothers are even trying to monitor their sons’ Internet activities.

It sounds over-the-top but Jibril said, “It’s an extraordinary situation.” There’s a fear there may be an exodus of more young men from Toronto as happened in Minneapolis, he said. Toronto is now home to almost 50,000 Somali-Canadians, he points out.

In Little Mogadishu, an area bounded by highrises along Dixon Rd. and between Kipling and Islington Aves., families run thriving restaurants and grocery stores. Yet Somalis remain one of the GTA’s most disadvantaged, scoring near the bottom in household income, employment and education.

Mohamed Gilao, executive director of Dejinta Beesha, a settlement agency, said young people find it difficult to integrate; some drop out of school and fall prey to crime, drugs and gangs. And now, it seems, radicals, too.

But the five missing men were raised in middle-class families and none had a run-in with police, say community leaders.

Warsame, the youth leader, talks of the crisis of “belonging” that plagues all young people from war-torn countries, especially if they still have relatives there.

Most Somali-Canadians still have families in that country and faithfully keep track of events there. Many send money back, ensuring the bond never severs.

“I’m not making any excuses (for Mahad Dhorre) and others,” said Warsame. “But these kids wonder about equality and justice when they see war, hunger and violence in their native country. Is that what drives them? I don’t know.”

Source: TheStar


  1. Today most of the people carrying out the suicide bombs in Somalia are Somalis from abroad like the US, Canada and Denmark as recently reported, the reason for this is firstly they discover the real al shabab once they get to Somalia, often they are forced to carry out the suicides while many went there to fight. The reason they are forced to carry out suicide is because been from abroad speaking English and other languages no one will suspect them of having ties with Al shabab, now the weak governments of Somalia and Somaliland have to monitor all young men who visit from abroad.

    Also al shabab give them orders, carry out the suicide or face execution, this is the cruel reality of al shabab. Those young men were no terrorist nor evil they have been brain washed, we have to find who is recruiting them and paying for their tickets.

    Somaliland be aware of the so called "Somalis coming back home".

  2. The root of the problem is that the youth grew up in the western world are torn between two different cultures which drag them in two different directions. The additional Islamic culture of their parents and the pop culture in which they grew up in. Their parents try to introduce them from early on to Islamic teaches such as the Quran and cling them by not letting them fully integrate into non-Islamic culture, for a fear that their kids will no longer be their own and will adapt the ways of the west. On the other hand, their adopted countries are also partly to blame. These young men are joining the terrorists because they feel that they are neglected and isolated by the mainstream in terms of finding jobs and having a meanful passtime activities to keep them busy.

    They are confused, feel powerless, bitter and have no sense of belonging. Joining a gang or Al shabaab give them an outlet, a power and a sense of belonging. These young men are not murderers. They are lost souls, torn between two conflicts world and need to be rescued.

  3. When person reachs age 18, that person is fully responsible his action good or bad in the west. Parents are responsible while children are under age;therefore, parents can only try to be friends with them. Some Somali youths even tell parents they can do whatever they want with their lives as they please. On the other hands there are good Somali youths who listen to what the parents have to say eventhought they borned abroad.

    Parents don't have what parents backhome have and if they don't treat them with respect they will risk losing their children for good. Government, shools and parents are all there for the good of the children. I like it that way personally because some parents may not be responsible that is not joke it's the law of the land. But the law applies to all parents equally either they are Somali parents or other parents.

  4. So, isn’t high time that the Somali communities abroad (in Western Countries) step in to sensitize children?

    I don’t mean education, in its sense, as such; but to re-introduce to them the values of family life and love of country, love of self, respect for human life, etc. and instill in them to aspire to greater heights. and this must start as early as from the age of 6 years; and programs must be established for the older group.

    In the West “18” means being an adult…which in our Somali/African culture does not work.

    The Westerners don’t have that tight family bond that exists in our Somali families, they do not care very much for each other, personally, but have put some instruments that give its citizens right of this or that, at 18 years. Mind you, there are good things about their laws, like, being paid welfare, retirement funds, pension homes for old people (which in my personal view is unfamily-like), education, etc.

    So of course, the Somali children might yearn to turn 18; (the magical number in the West!) And they think! Wow, Freedom, at last, finally I am an adult. Oh! I am allowed to do grow-up stuff!! But they are not mature enough to sieve the good from the bad. The parents are in the back seat and can only advice but cannot force to implement, because of these laws, or risk losing the child. In the West, a child has to fend for himself or herself; so Somali children have to go with the flow.

    Our Somali children have been exposed to a culture where the motto is “everyone for himself and God for all”. Our Somali children are caught in this vicious circle. They have misguided views about what it means to be an adult; there is peer pressure, conflict between children and parents, they find their parents’ ideas are very primitive, etc. money is a scarce commodity, and that is where the drugs, come in, easy money, road to riches, not knowing the rules or perils of the game; and once in cannot never come out, sane or alive; even after they attain a BA or MA degree, jobs are non-existent, there is the possibility of being discriminated against; should one exist; and the likelihood of being passed over for by a Niin or Naag Aad, is another problem.

    Therefore, joining gangs or being part of a radical group has given them an outlet where they can be identified and respected; and the Muslim religion that they learnt in their childhood days, has suddenly taken a whole new dimension and given them a new perspective and an identity. These children are lost, and don’t have a sense of belonging anywhere, anymore; and peace in their beloved homeland is nowhere in sight; they feel rejected by their adoptive countries; and so are susceptible to being exploited by other foreign groups to do their dirty jobs, for a few hundred bucks. Oh! They are so vulnerable at this young age!!

    In my view, I believe that the Somali Communities/NGOs are the only ones that can get involved to stop this infectious-like disease that is spreading like wildfire destroying and consuming the precious lives of our Children and tearing the Somali families apart. They need counseling, they need love, they need to be nurtured, respected, listened to, etc., they need to be reined in; or otherwise they will be, no more. We should start cherishing our Somali heritage, even if we are in the West. Difficult, as it might seem, but I am positive, it can be done, with patience and perseverance to get through to our youth.