National Post – May 13, 2011
A former Toronto man who is now a commander of the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab has called for revenge over the killing of Osama bin Laden in an audiotape posted on the Internet. Photos that accompany the recording show Omar Hammami, alias Abu Mansour the American, speaking at an Al-Shabab rally called “We are all Osama” along with other leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked group.The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian father, Hammami, 27, grew up in Alabama and moved in 2004 to Toronto, where he married a Somali-Canadian and was recruited into Islamist extremist ideology. Since arriving in Somalia, he has posted scores of videos on the Internet urging Western Muslim youths to join Al-Shabab, a Taliban-like armed group trying to impose its version of Islamic law on Somalis.
Officials say up to 20 young Canadians have already travelled to Somalia to join Al Shabab, which Canada outlawed as a terrorist organization last year after it began aggressively recruiting Somali-Canadians.
Five friends, in their early to mid-20s, grew up and attended schools in Toronto, Canada. They spoke English and Somali. At least two of them were university students.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.
Online propaganda – a mix of nationalist sentiment, religious ideology and tough talk – is enough to recruit young Somali men looking for a purpose and willing to take up arms in their homeland, say community leaders in Canada and the US RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers are investigating the disappearances, canvassing areas in Little Mogadishu and questioning families. 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.
Somali-Canadian families are asking what happened to their sons after a group of young men apparently disappeared from Toronto two weeks ago. They left without notice, and have not contacted home since. “They didn’t even tell their parents,” said Omar Kireh, administrator of the Abu Huraira Centre, the Toronto mosque where the men occasionally worshipped.
Canada is home to about 150,000 ethnic Somalis, according to a report by Canada’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre. Most are moderates but the report says that, “Some Somali-Canadians have fought as Islamist extremists in Somalia.”
A circle of friends in their twenties leaving town together might not ordinarily be cause for concern, but following recent events in the American Somali community, their disappearance has set off alarm bells. More than 20 Somali-Americans who similarly vanished from Minneapolis have turned up in Somalia as members of Al-Shabab, an Islamist youth militia aligned with al-Qaeda and often likened to the Taliban.
The RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are still puzzling over their fate. Investigators have been showing photos of five men to members of Toronto’s Somali community. Ahmed Gure, who runs the Ottawa-based Somali news website Hiiraan Online, said he had spoken to relatives of the parents. He said they fear the men have gone to Somalia to fight.