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Damian Clairmont, Calgary Man Killed In Syria, Had Trouble As Teen

01/15/2014 07:22 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
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A Calgary man who was reportedly killed during rebel infighting in Syria had a troubled youth and found solace in Islam.

Reports say 22-year-old Mustafa al-Gharib, born Damian Clairmont, was killed by Free Syrian Army forces during fighting in Aleppo.

“He had some trouble as a teenager. When he converted to Islam, initially his family thought that this would be the thing that would calm him down. And eventually it did,” said CBC News' Adrienne Arsenault, who interviewed Clairmont's mother last year.

“He did seem to find some peace. And then he changed,” said his mother.

Born into an Acadian French-Canadian Catholic family, Clairmont's mother began to worry when he became a devout Muslim and made comments she found anti-Western.

A high school drop-out, Clairmont, who was born in Nova Scotia, had attempted suicide before converting to Islam, the National Post reports.

He left Calgary in 2012 to join a group of jihadis fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“He was a sitting target,” his mother said to the National Post.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, speaking in Washington on Wednesday, said his officials were aware of the reports of al-Gharib's death, but suggested he may be just one among many Canadians fighting overseas.

"I haven't got specific facts, (but) it won't come as a surprise to us that there is probably more than one Canadian that is fighting with the opposition," Baird said.

According to an anonymous Canadian security source, dozens of Canadians have left for Syria, mainly from Alberta and Ontario, the Toronto Star reports.

CSIS officers had told Clairmont's mother they believed he was lying about his whereabouts and wasn't where he claimed to be – in Egypt studying Arabic.

His mother told the National Post she was angry Canadian officials didn't tell her he was associating with extremists until it was too late.

“How are we as parents supposed to arm ourselves or have an idea what’s going on so we can stop as much as we can on our end if they’re not going to let us in on it,” she said.

Word of the Clairmont's death first appeared on social media Tuesday night by way of a fighter who apparently knew him personally.

It also came amid published reports that European intelligence agencies have shared information with the Assad regime about the 1,200 European jihadists who, like Clairmont, have joined militant groups in Syria.

With files from the Canadian Press

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