09/24/2014 09:17 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST

Hamilton man reported killed in recent anti-ISIS attacks

A Hamilton high school principal recalls a 20-year-old man reported to have been killed fighting for ISIS during attacks from Kurdish forces in northern Syria last week, as a "vibrant" and "social" man. 

But what happened since Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, 20, left St. Thomas More Secondary School (STMSS) in Grade 11, remains unclear. His father spoke to a reporter in Minneapolis in mid-September, saying his son had gone missing sometime in July. It's believed he was radicalized somewhere, but Hamilton's Muslim community doesn't recognize him. When he went missing while in Minneapolis, after heading to the mosque there. 

He last phoned home to his mother in Hamilton to say he was with his "brothers" in Syria, according to a Voice of America report.  

And just days ago, a photo circulated of a Canadian-Somali who was killed, identified in National Post as Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, from the West Mountain in Hamilton. 

Principal said former student Mohamud was 'really well-liked,'

​STMSS principal Susanna Fortino-Bozzo confirmed Mohamud had attended the school and called him a "vibrant" student when he was there. She said he was "sociable" and "really well-liked," although he did not graduate, dropping out in Grade 11.

The unnamed reports say he died fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). He would be Canada's first reported jihadist killed since anti-ISIS military action, led by air strikes by U.S. forces last week, have amped up. 

He would not be the first Canadian to have been killed while fighting for ISIS — a Calgary imam says he knows at least five who have died within the last year.

The National Post report said the man, also known as "Mo3," lived with his mother, Asha, in Hamilton while his father lives in Minneapolis. It's believed that during a visit with his father in July, he left for the mosque but never returned home. 

Fortino-Bozzo said she couldn't share details of his file due to privacy issues.

"Ultimately, our prayers are with everyone impacted by this tragic death," though she quickly pointed out it may not be true that Mohamud is in fact dead. "His family will be in our prayers." 

Reports of his death remain unconfirmed, and foreign affairs is deferring the matter to the Department of Public Safety, which said they "don't comment on operational matters of national security."  

There's also a question as to where the young man may have been radicalized — in Hamilton, Mosque representatives from the Mountain don't recognized Mohamud. Some members of the downtown mosque, which has 3,000 members from Somalia, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, among others nations, did not recognize a picture of Mohamud.

The picture was originally circulated on a pair of pro-Shabab websites which didn't name Mohamud, but said the person in the photo was killed. A Sept. 15 Voice of America report claims to have spoken with the unnamed father of Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud in Minneapolis, where his father lived, who said he was "shocked" to learn his son left mid-July. 

"My son was a student, he suddenly changed," the man told reporter Harun Maruf. "He used to pray but he increased it to 24 hours of prayers, and he was rarely away from mosques. He arranged his travel without my knowledge, and then he ended up in Syria. All of us [in the family] are very saddened. We did not expect he would do this.”  

Whether Mohamud was radicalized in Hamilton or Minneapolis, and if he left for Syria and has died fighting for the Islamic State, is still in question. However, Jason Tamming, press secretary for Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, notes that 130 Canadians have left to fight for ISIS.

"This is a serious problem, and demands a strong response," Tanning said Wednesday.

Calgary imam: Path to militant extremism starts in universities, colleges, mosques and community centres

Calgary-based imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC), said at least five Calgary-based Muslims have been converted to fight for ISIS, a process he said starts with converting to Wahabism, a more radical form of Islam. 

"The path of recruiting is a very long path. It's not just one month, or one night. It depends on how quickly they get brainwashed. But the process is in universities, in colleges, in some of the mosques, in community centres, People organize lectures and they invite Wahabi (speakers)," Soharwardy said Wednesday.

"Those speakers in fact convert people to Wahabism. And once people accept the Wahabi belief, that which is based upon intolerance towards disagreement, Wahabi belief if basically that they are the only one who will be in Heaven and the rest will go to Hell regardless if they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim… Then they bring that person close to them then slowly they bring that person underground, start brainwashing them, and then getting that person overseas through Internet, through social media, through different websites."

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