NEWS

Canadian Somali group wants Harper's help to prevent ISIS recruitment

09/24/2014 10:27 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST
As U.S.-led forces launch airstrikes in Syria, an organization in Edmonton says it is fighting to keep young people in the city’s Somali community from answering recruitment calls to join ISIS militants fighting overseas.

Mahamad Accord, with the Canadian Somali Congress of Western Canada, says at least six young men are missing and believed to have been recruited.

“We all know that there is evidence in the community that some of the boys are missing, and the anecdote that we’ve been receiving is they went missing and they called their parents from either somewhere in Iraq or they call from Turkey and they tell them their intention to join ISIS,” he said.

The news comes after it was learned two brothers in Calgary joined the ranks of foreign fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The brothers disappeared sometime in late 2012.

Between 2011 and 2012, they shared an apartment in the same downtown Calgary highrise that once housed Damian Clairmont and SalmanAshrafi– two other Calgary men who were recruited and later died in ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq.

Only one of the Calgary men known to have been recruited had a Somali background.

Hoping to avoid any further similar losses, Accord’s group has written a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, asking him for support as they combat radicalization.

Community asks for help

“Based on very solid and reliable sources from our community youth and elders, here in Canada and Alberta in particular, 16-25 years old Somali youth are recruited to become ISIS frontline soldiers at an alarming proportion,” Accord says in his letter to Harper.

Many of the youth being targeted are first-generation Canadians who are often socially isolated, with no family or other responsibilities to keep them here, he writes.

“Regrettably, this terror group is using sophisticated and professional network of recruiters and sympathizers to brainwash these young, innocent and vulnerable group ages and it seems that they are succeeding of their criminal activities.” 

Accord said the recruiters often lure individuals by offering to help pay for travel costs – essential, since most young men in the community could not afford to make the trip alone.

Now, Accord hopes to work with the authorities and law enforcement agencies to raise awareness and education, in an attempt to prevent further recruitment.

“To counter these terrorist elements, we need a collective approach to fight back and get our local Imams join the fight by educating the youth on real interpretation and meaning of jihad in Islam. They have to reach out the youth and clarify key points of Islam that prevent in participating false jihad and extremism,” he writes.

Speaking to CBC News, Accord made his intentions even clearer.

“We’re going to tell our youth very clear that if you go there, you’re going to be killed, that’s for sure,” he said. “And if you ... survive, you’ll be criminal. You’re going to be a criminal [and] you will be hunted and brought to justice.

“That’s one thing that they have to understand: that’s not the key to paradise, it’s the key to hell.”

In the meantime, he advised parents to be on the lookout for signs their children may have been contacted by ISIS.

“If you suspect your children is going to be recruited ... go to the authorities. Save your child while you can.”

Read Accord's full letter to Stephen Harper

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