Missing students joined jihad, according to CSIS

Ex-U of M Muslim student leader interviewed by agency

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A University of Manitoba Muslim student leader says CSIS investigators told him that three students who have disappeared in Pakistan joined the jihad.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2010 (4388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A University of Manitoba Muslim student leader says CSIS investigators told him that three students who have disappeared in Pakistan joined the jihad.

“They specifically said they are going for the jihad, they are going for religious fighting,” Shariq Kidwai, former president of the U of M Muslim Students Association, said Friday.

Kidwai said Canadian Security and Intelligence Services investigators interviewed him about U of M students Ferid Imam, Muhannad al-Farekh, and Miawand Yar shortly after he became association president in 2008. They disappeared in 2007.

Ferid Imam

“I was told they (the three students) wrote some notes, which were very discouraging: we are saying final goodbyes to our families, we won’t see them again,” Kidwai said the federal agents told him.

The Globe and Mail reported Friday of an international search for the three young men involving CSIS, the RCMP and the FBI. The three young men flew to Pakistan in 2007 without notifying their families, according to the Globe.

“Ferid, he was president before me,” said Kidwai, who did not know the three young men very well, but encountered them while attending daily prayers on campus.

“When I was president, CSIS, they called and asked if I know these three persons,” Kidwai said.

When the agents interviewed him face-to-face, Kidwai said he told them, “I know them, they were coming here,” he said, indicating the campus Muslim prayer room outside which Kidwai spoke Friday.

Kidwai was uncertain what the three men were studying. A doctoral candidate in physics, Kidwai noted, “They were not in science.”

The officers from the federal spy agency were friendly when they interviewed him, and seemed especially interested in discovering whether the three men had left Canada voluntarily, Kidwai said.

While Muslim students gather together on campus for prayers and for social discussions, “We do not know what is in your heart,” he said.

Kidwai said it troubles him to hear reports that the RCMP may be interviewing young Muslim men on campus randomly. “It portrays every Muslim this way, which is absolutely not true,” he said.

A young Muslim man attending prayers Friday said he had also heard stories about the three men disappearing.

“There was an investigation,” said the man, who declined to give his name because he feared he would bring down trouble on himself. “I heard they came several times — they investigated about their backgrounds, their families.”

Dozens of other U of M Muslim students on their way to the prayer room on campus Friday afternoon said they were unaware of the Globe and Mail story and of any investigation on campus.

Community activist Shahina Siddiqui said Friday that the young men’s decision to leave, and a subsequent intense investigation by RCMP, have left some Muslim families in Winnipeg stressed.

“It’s been going on for three years. Families have come to me for stress and counselling,” Siddiqui said.

Siddiqui said that the RCMP have repeatedly interviewed other young Muslim men in the city. “It’s the persistence that was the most troubling — it was show up at home, show up at school. Are they themselves under investigation?” she said.

“We don’t know why the investigation — the community has not been told anything by the authorities,” said Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association.

Miawand Yar

She said that it appears the three young men left the U of M and travelled to Pakistan voluntarily without telling their families. “They’re adults, they have their passports,” Siddiqui said. “These are young men who decided to go, we don’t know where, we don’t know why.”

The Globe and Mail reported that Imam was a popular student-athlete at Dakota Collegiate.

However, despite what appears to be an exhaustive investigation, Imam’s former teachers have not been interviewed. Louis Riel School Division superintendent Terry Borys said he phoned the Dakota Collegiate principal first thing Friday after reading the Globe and Mail story.

“No staff have been interviewed at this time,” said Borys, who declined to talk about Imam: “We don’t comment on students, former or current.”

Attorney General Andrew Swan said Friday morning he was aware of the matter but that he could not discuss it.

“We get regular briefings from our law enforcement agencies, but I’m not able to comment at this time,” Swan said.

“The law enforcement agencies in Manitoba will be co-operating nationally and providing any information needed, but I don’t have anything to add to that as attorney general.”

Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson, commanding officer for RCMP in Manitoba, said Friday the students at this point are being treated as missing persons.

“Of course the RCMP is concerned with the radicalization of youth if in fact that is occurring,” he said. “But again, I’m not going to comment regarding any ongoing investigations whether it does exist or doesn’t exist, however, it is a concern when youth gone missing.”

Robinson also would not comment whether RCMP have interviewed the families of the three students or when local authorities became informed they were missing.

U of M public affairs director John Danakas would not confirm whether federal investigators have talked to the university’s administration, but said it is university policy to co-operate with justice officials.

“Because of the sensitivity surrounding anything like that, we can’t comment. The university would assist the authorities in any way possible — would,” he said, emphasizing that he was not confirming anything had happened in this case.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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