British Columbia

Family of Rudwan Abubaker says he wasn't bomb-making rebel

For the first time the family of Rudwan Khalil Abubaker has spoken publicly about his death and they're calling on Ottawa to do more to help.

For the first time the family of Rudwan Khalil Abubaker has spoken publicly about his death and they're calling on Ottawa to do more to help.

Rudwan Khalil Abubaker (File Photo)

This summer, Abubaker and a friend went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, then to visit family in Dubai. He then headed for Azerbaijan to attend a friend's wedding, but wasn't heard from again.

His name finally surfaced in the war-torn region of Chechnya, where Russian forces say they killed him in a shoot-out with rebel fighters.

Rudwan's brother, Amir says the news devastated the family of Eritrean refugees. His mother still grieves for her son, crying and praying he will return.

On Oct. 8, Russian special forces said they killed four rebels and that one of them was carrying the Canadian passport and B.C. driver's licence belonging to Rudwan Khalil Abubaker. The Russians say he was an explosives expert fighting alongside Muslim rebels in Chechnya.

But to the Abubaker family in Vancouver the news came as a shock. They say Rudwan was an avid soccer player, an aspiring model and a fan of hip hop music, not a bomb-making expert.

"He's not an explosives expert. He's not a terrorist. He's a model, a soccer player, an excellent soccer player, to the point he could have been playing on the Canadian national team," said Amir.

The family says the Canadian government is their only hope of piecing the story together, of finding out what happened and knowing once and for all if Rudwan is alive or dead.

The 26-year-old was born in Sudan, but was raised in East Vancouver where he graduated from high school in 1997.

Rudwan and his friend Kamal Elbahja left Vancouver in June. They flew to Saudi Arabia, then to Dubai to visit a cousin.

"I was jealous about it. I wished I was in his place," said older brother Nasr. "In our culture the older person pays the price for the family. The young kids need to enjoy it. I was so happy for him, I said 'You go ahead.'"

But no one knows for sure what happened after the pair left Dubai. They said they were going to the wedding of another friend in Azerbaijan.

But CBC News has obtained copies of a plane ticket in Abubaker's name.

The two young men flew to Dagestan, a tiny Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, just 100 kilometres from the Chechen border. They landed on Aug. 23, the last anyone has seen of the pair.

Eldest brother Nasr believes his brother is dead. But his mother and Amir refuse to give up hope. Both choosing to believe he is in hiding and will someday return.

There are still many questions about the events concerning Abubaker that remain unanswered.

Kamal Elbahja, the young man traveling with Abubaker is still missing and the man whose wedding they were supposed to attend in Azerbaijan hasn't been seen since August.

The Abubakers have asked for a DNA sample to prove the man killed in Chechnya was indeed Rudwan. But the Russians have refused. They buried the body where it lay and say there's no plan to exhume it.