A number of young Somali-Canadians have returned to their homeland and joined a hardline Islamic militia that some call Africa's Taliban, sources have told the National Post.
The Shabbab, a Somali youth militia whose leader is believed to have been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, includes several Canadians in its ranks, the sources said.
Somali-Canadians are also said to be serving in other militias, as well as in senior positions in Somalia's interim government and its opponent, the Islamic Courts Union.
The Canadians are described as refugees who moved to Toronto and Ottawa in the 1990s, some of them university students, who have returned to Somalia over the past two to three years.
"Some of the militia members of the Shabbab are young diaspora members who returned to Somalia from Canada," a leading Somalia expert, who asked not to be identified, told the Post this week.
"The Somalis who are here, and others who have recently been in, confirm that quite a few of the Shabbab are in fact diaspora members, not just from Canada but quite a few have come back from places like Pakistan."
Some analysts believe Somalia is on the verge of becoming the next big destination for young extremist Muslims who want to participate in armed jihad.
The participation of a significant number of Canadians in the conflict has raised alarms in Ottawa, which fears Somali militia members will escalate to terrorism or return to Canada and radicalize a new wave of extremists.
It was just such a scenario that unfolded after the Soviet War in Afghanistan, when foreign volunteers became the first generation of al-Qaeda terrorists. Others returned to the West and began recruiting others into terrorism.
Their numbers may be small now, but do not be deceived: it only takes a handful with influence to attract a much larger number to the cause.
More disturbingly, they might be coming back schooled in urban warfare and guerrilla techniques, and looking for recruits not to fight on the streets of Mogadishu, but of Toronto.
If they go, don't let them back, Canadian citizens or otherwise. They've shown where their loyalties lie.
Source: National Post