Three University of Manitoba students who disappeared in 2007 are the focus of a massive investigation involving CSIS, the RCMP and the FBI, and stretching from Pakistan to the White House. ((CBC))

Three missing University of Manitoba students are the subject of a massive investigation that has stretched all the way to the White House.

Ferid Imam, Muhannad al-Farekh and Miawand Yar all grew up in Winnipeg after their families moved to the city from other countries.

The three met and became friends at university but disappeared before completing their studies.

In 2007, they left the country together, destined for Pakistan via Europe, and dropped all contact with their families, according to a Globe and Mail report.

Search involves CSIS, RCMP, FBI

Since their mysterious disappearance, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents and the RCMP counterterrorism unit have been interviewing other Muslim students on the U of M campus.


Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association, said there is concern and even guilt among family members of the missing men, wondering if they could have done anything differently. (CBC)

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States has dispatched agents to the Middle East as part of their hunt, and the young men have been the subject of secret briefings to U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama," according to the Globe and Mail story.

According to the Globe and Mail story, the missing men have been spotted in Pakistan's Peshawar district, which is known as the gateway to the lawless tribal area bordering Afghanistan and suspected of sheltering senior members of al-Qaeda.

Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association of the United States and Canada, a charitable organization whose Canadian wing is based in Winnipeg, knows the family of one of the missing men.

In an interview Friday with CBC News she confirmed the details of the Globe and Mail story and said the fallout in Winnipeg has been stressful.

'It's the not knowing, I mean, the authorities don't know. So how can an ordinary citizen know anything, right, as to why and what.'— Shahina Siddiqui

She didn't say which family she knows but noted there is a lot of concern and even guilt, with family members wondering if they could have done anything differently.

Even more frustrating is that people can't get an explanation from the authorities for why they're so interested in the three men.

"It's the not knowing, I mean, the authorities don't know, so how can an ordinary citizen know anything, right, as to why and what?" said Siddiqui, who has been instrumental in setting up support systems for Muslim families in Winnipeg and across North America.

For some Muslim students at the U of M, the investigation into the missing students has been a difficult experience, forcing some to seek counselling, Siddiqui said.

"Stressful. They have felt harassed," she said. "Some have come close to dropping out of the university."

More alleged terrorist ties to Winnipeg

This case would be the latest possible link between Winnipeg and alleged terrorists. In August, the RCMP charged Hiva Alizadeh, 30, with knowingly helping to commit terrorist activity and being in possession of an explosive substance with intent to harm.

Alizadeh, a Sunni Muslim whose parents live in Iran, lived in Manitoba for many years and attended Red River College in Winnipeg before moving to Ontario. He is accused of providing property or financial services for the benefit of a terrorist group.

Two other Canadian men have also been charged. Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, of Ottawa, and 28-year-old Khurram Sher of London, Ont., are also charged with conspiracy to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity.

They are accused of taking part in a domestic terrorist plot and possessing plans and materials to create makeshift bombs had allegedly selected specific targets in Canada.

All three were arrested in Ottawa on Aug. 25.