Somali-Canadian leader doubts youths targeted by al-Qaeda-linked group
Federal official says Canadian youths recruited by al-Shabaab
A leader in Canada's Somalian community is dismissing reports of young people being recruited by an al-Qaeda-linked militia to fight in Somalia, despite evidence it is occurring in the United States and elsewhere.
Said Omar, a spokesman for Toronto's Khalid bin Walid mosque, which mainly serves the city's Somalian population, said he hasn't heard about any such recruitment efforts.
"We are a peace-loving congregation, law-abiding citizens, who just want to live peacefully with our Canadian neighbours and friends," Omar said.
However, a senior federal government official with knowledge of Canada's security services has told CBC News that Somali-Canadian young men have indeed joined the al-Shabaab militia.
The issue came to light earlier this month when a Somali-American community leader from Minnesota testified before the U.S. Homeland Security Committee.
Osman Ahmed told the committee his 18-year-old nephew, Burhan Hassan, vanished in November along with six other young men from Minneapolis.
Hassan called home a few weeks later, saying he was on his way to a training camp for al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group linked to al-Qaeda that has vowed to fight against the government until Islamic law is in place.
Washington recently added al-Shabaab to the U.S. list of banned terrorist organizations.
Recruiters active in Canada?
Hassan said he believes his nephew was recruited by extremist elements in the U.S.
Ahmed said he believes al-Shabaab recruiters are also active in Canada's large Somalian communities in Toronto and Ottawa.
That claim is disputed by the spokesman for Toronto's Khalid bin Walid mosque.
"If this was a widespread case, we would have had parents come forward to us. But nobody so far [has come forward]," said Omar.
The federal Canadian official — who would not agree to be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly — estimated al-Shabaab recruiting may have involved as many as 30 Somali-Canadian youths.
The FBI and Britain's MI5 say similar numbers have left both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
With files from Bill Gillespie, the Associated Press