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Somali-Canadians caught in Alberta 's Drug Trade...Tragic story

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Raveena Aulakh Staff Reporter


EDMONTON — Four months after he left Toronto, 21-year-old Abas Abukar was dead.


On Halloween morning in 2008, the former Humber College student’s body was found in Northmount Park, a wooded area in this city’s north end. Abukar had been shot a few hours earlier, an autopsy concluded. He was victim number 19.


A month later, Abdulkadir Mohamoud, 23, was found stripped, beaten and shot to death in a park. He, too, had moved from Toronto, about two years earlier. That same day, Ahmed Mohammed Abdirahman, 21, was gunned down outside a seedy townhouse complex. They became victim numbers 20 and 21. Eight more would be killed after that.


Since the summer of 2005, 29 Somali-Canadians ranging in age from 17 to 28 have been murdered in Alberta, in what police are calling an escalating gang and drug turf war amid the province’s booming oil economy. Some, however, have simply been killed in the crossfire, a situation of hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong time. The killings have occurred primarily in Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray.


The victims were all from Ontario, mostly from the Toronto area, and almost all were either born or raised in this country.


Some moved to Alberta with their parents who, faced with an unemployment rate of 22 per cent in Toronto, the highest of any ethnic group, sought legitimate high-paying jobs while their kids succumbed to the lure of easy drug money. At least half, according to news reports, were known to police, in some cases small-time drug peddlers in Ontario who moved west to make better money in a lucrative drug market.


Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd says his officers are working closely with investigators in Ontario cities to track the movement of gang members and drugs between the two provinces. But so far arrests have been made in only one case and members of the Somali community, having fled their own war-torn country, are growing anxious.


“I wish we had never moved to Edmonton,” says Faduma Arab, Mohamoud’s mother, who has since moved back to Toronto with her five other children.


“My son might have still been alive.”




Drug trafficking is dangerous anywhere but in Alberta, Canada’s most prosperous province, it has become increasingly more perilous.


In Alberta, the drug business is worth over $5 billion annually and is controlled by well-established gangs such as Hells Angels, native gangs and Asian triads. According to criminal experts, the ‘newbies’ — what the Somali-Canadians are called — are running headlong into other groups, rubbing people the wrong way and triggering turf wars in which they are coming out the losers.


Edmonton police and criminologists suspect Somali-Canadians aren’t even part of true gangs with guns and backup — just young naïve men in loosely organized groups.


Some Somali-Canadians have been recruited by other gangs and are being used at the lowest level as peddlers or mules to deliver drugs, says William Pitt, a former RCMP officer and now a professor of criminology at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.


“That makes them a disposable commodity — if the police get them, they don’t know much or have large quantities (of drugs) on them; and if they die... they are no loss to the gangs,” he says.


Gang war has hit Edmonton streets before.


In the late 1990s, Vietnamese gangs in the city battled each other and other crime groups to gain a slice of the city’s drug trafficking, prostitution and gambling. At least 10 people were killed over five years.


Somali-Canadians are easy targets: they are a small Black minority, the largest African group in Edmonton; they typically don’t carry guns; and they likely don’t know the nuances of the established drug trade, says Cathy Prowse, a former police officer, gang expert and criminal anthropologist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.


“There are some rules among gangsters… you never encroach on anyone’s territory, never steal others’ clients or drastically change the price,” says Prowse, who retired from the Calgary Police Service after 25 years.


The new kids on the block aren’t familiar with such subtleties.


“Young people also think they can make some money (in drugs) and get out if there are any problems,” says Prowse. “They are delusional. It’s easy to get in, tough to get out.”




“Come work for me. You’ll be rich,” says a tall man with a goatee, flashing a wad of notes at the three young Somali-Canadian men.


“It’s easy money.”


Jamal Yusuf, 16, a student at J. Percy Page High School in southeast Edmonton, says he had heard of teenagers being offered money to peddle or deliver drugs, such as crack cocaine and heroin, but it was the first time he had been approached.


It was during a house party last summer — a K’naan number was blasting, Yusuf was sipping iced tea and grumbling about homework when the stranger made the offer.


Speechless for a moment, Yusuf says he smiled and declined.


He has been approached at least half a dozen other times with similar offers since moving from Toronto with his family in 2007. Each time, he has refused.


Yusuf, an easygoing teen with a quick smile, knows the dangers of the drug-related business, but says he wonders why others haven’t noticed the spike in funerals. “Everyone knows what’s going on... I don’t know why people still get involved.”


But according to one small-time drug dealer on the streets of Edmonton who gave his name as Bilal Ahmed, the lure of easy money is difficult to resist.




Ahmed, 19, says he grew up in Toronto’s Kipling and Rexdale Aves. area and moved to Edmonton in 2007 along with his older brother. He never sold drugs in Toronto, he says, but was peddling ecstasy pills within weeks of arriving in Edmonton.


Someone he knew was selling cocaine and offered him the pills to sell, which go for $5 to $20 each. The money was too good to refuse, he says. On a good weekend, he claims to make as much several thousand dollars, although criminologist Pitt says a mid-level drug dealer can make up to $10,000 selling coke or heroin in a single evening. Ahmed says it is also an easy way to make friends, blend in with the crowd, gain acceptance.


Ahmed doesn’t know when or why the violence started but it hit home on Nov. 29 last year when his cousin, Robileh Ali Mohamed, 23, of Ottawa, was killed near a Somali restaurant in downtown Edmonton.


“I thought I was going to be next...”


Somali community leaders in Alberta say many victims appear to be related or knew each other beforehand; indicating one may have lured the other into the drug trade. Just last month, two cousins, Saed Adad, 22, and Idris Abess, 23, both from Toronto, were found dead in a Fort McMurray apartment.




After his cousin’s death, Ahmed fled to Calgary, but returned two months later and is back selling on the streets. On this particular night, it’s about 2 a.m. and –10 C. The street lights are blazing at 107th Ave. near 105th St., close to the downtown core and its shiny corporate high rises, and a block away from a police station. The traffic never stops on the street, where hookers and pimps are known to hang out, and drugs are just a phone call away.


Ahmed, dressed in baggy jeans, a black sweatshirt and an Oilers hat, is sitting in a black Honda Civic in a shopping plaza parking lot where large billboards advertizing a nightclub, a liquor store and a massage parlour jostle for attention.


He’s waiting for a pick-up.


At 2:15 a.m., an SUV pulls up and the driver rolls down a window. The man nods and Ahmed steps out to meet him. Within a minute, money and pills have exchanged hands.


A year ago, Ahmed would have been cavalier — he says he may have hung around for another deal. Now he delivers pills to people he knows well and never stays in one place for long.


He is careful about his movements, never really feels safe. “It’s gonna get bad... like s**t… I’m ready to run back to Toronto,” he says.




Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian community, pegged at 12,000 people, is the largest outside Ontario.


It is now under intense scrutiny, says Mahamad Accord, executive director of Edmonton’s Alberta Somali Community Centre. What angers him is when people call the murders a Somali problem. “It’s not — almost all of these men were born and raised in Canada,” says Accord. “It’s got nothing to do with their ethnicity.”


He acknowledges too many young men are being drawn to crime but says “marginalization combined with a lucrative drug trade in an oil-rich economy has drawn these young men.”


And, he adds, Alberta is less tolerant of diversity than Ontario. “If you are a person of colour, you will be treated differently... doesn’t matter whether you were born here or in Africa.”


Accord and Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, who met with police and Somali community groups in Alberta late last year, say they are trying to educate people and find ways to help Somali youths fit in by starting up homework and sports clubs.


A year ago, faced with criticism over the handling of the murder investigations, Edmonton police assigned Sgt. Patrick Ruzage and Const. Ken Smith, of the city’s gangs and drugs squad, as community liaison officers. Ruzage was sent to Ontario for a week to learn from Toronto police how to work with the Somali community. The two officers spend time mingling with the teens and organize friendly soccer games to try and build trust with the families.


“We are educating them... telling them how they can call Crime Stoppers, help solve a crime and stay anonymous,” says Smith, admitting there has been little success so far. “People are terrified of being snitches and then getting targeted.”


There have been a couple of small victories. The officers, both of whom are black, have been approached by a few young Somali-Canadians about how to become police officers.




Faduma Arab has sworn off Edmonton. Just talking about the time her family spent there chokes her up and her eyes fill with tears.


“I wish we had never moved there... I lost my son there,” says Arab, who now lives in a highrise in south Mississauga.


She phones the detectives on her son Abdulkadir Mohamoud’s case every week; she flies there every few months to see if there is any progress.


“Abdulkadir did not traffic drugs. He was the kind of a son who would clean up the house and cook if I wasn’t there.” She pulls out photos, school report cards of Mohamoud — he got straight As.


One of her younger sons concedes Mohamoud may have hung out with “the wrong people” and was targeted. “I don’t think he even knew that,” says the 17-year-old who did not want his name published. “My brother was a role model for all of us – we looked up to him.”


He never wants to return to Alberta. “I can’t even remember the number of times I was chased from school because people thought I would have drugs… because I’m Somali.”


Mohammed Aden is another devastated parent trying to make sense of his son’s death.


Abas Abukar was only three when the family moved to Canada in 1991 and settled in Etobicoke. He enrolled in the business program at Humber College and worked at Home Depot and Rogers in summer.


He moved to Edmonton in June 2008 “because he wanted to earn tuition money,” says Aden. Abukar had heard from his friends about well-paying jobs and wanted to spend a year working. “I didn’t want him to go… but his words were: I’m 21, I’m a man. I can do this,” says Aden, adding that he spoke to his son every day.


And then one day, he got a call: his son was dead


For the four months that Abukar was in Edmonton, he lived with his sister and her husband. She was pregnant and visiting her parents in Ontario when he was killed. She has since refused to return to that city and her husband has found a new job in Toronto.


“They were shattered,” says Aden. “...we were all broken.”

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Sorry to admit it but the majority of the reasons given in this article are a crock. The majority of these kids were killed by fellow Somalis anyone who is familiar with any of the cases would attest to the fact. The reason the majority haven't been solved has less to do with lack of police investigation and way more to do with the fact that Somali's simply refuse to give their own....a bit reminiscent of how thing's go on back home.

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oh wow I was just reading this article this morning. Thanks for posting it.


Somali youth especially Somali guys need to be educated about this issue.


Sorry to admit it but the majority of the reasons given in this article are a crock. The majority of these kids were killed by fellow Somalis anyone who is familiar with any of the cases would attest to the fact. The reason the majority haven't been solved has less to do with lack of police investigation and way more to do with the fact that Somali's simply refuse to give their own....a bit reminiscent of how thing's go on back home.

even if Somalis are killing each other, most likely they are all involved in drugs and what not. So it still doesn't justify anything, what got these young men involved in this to begin with??




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I'm worried, i have two young male cousins between the age of 8 and 10 living in Toronto, something has to be done about this immediately, like an increase in Somali Cops that understand the way these kids grow up and to whom these kids can turned to.


The slained boys were young men with bright futures, but there is an important interim period between the age of 15 and 20 that if not filled with community initiatives like homework/sports clubs, there will be a vaccuum where youngsters gather in malls instead, and sinister characters can step in seducing these boys with promises of making $1000 a week.


With community clubs however these boys would be in a relatively safe and static environment where they can be monitored, where they can play indoor soccer or watch movies, get help with homework and have a sense of stability in their lives, while at the same time avoid being a problem to their families and the society of their host country, or worse becoming a victim.


In Finland the Somali community has a nice system of watchmen that patrol the streets and advice Somali youth to disperse whenever they gather on the street, real impressive rolemodels:




Somali street patrol in Helsinki aims to narrow ethnic generation gap


Channel Patrol guides the youth home from the railway station before nightfall-By Otto Talvio


"The amateurs are on the move", a policeman guarding the railway station area declares. A group of people who seem to have enjoyed their pre-Christmas spirit emerge from the surrounding restaurants, queuing for taxis. A group of a dozen orange-coated Somali men patrol the station area every Friday and Saturday night, a stone's throw away from the taxi queue. They keep an eye on Somali youths and try to prevent fights, if necessary. They are volunteers, working for an organisation called Kanava Nuoriso ("Channel Youth").


An older man gets out of a car and approaches the group, carrying ten more orange vests for reinforcements. The men put on the vests over their own coats, and the official-looking group grows. The spokesperson of the patrol is Mohmad Musse, 28, who has lived in Finland for 12 years. Musse, who is fluent in Finnish, is also a project worker for the city's Youth Department.


The first round of the Channel Patrol begins at the corner of the Sokos department store at 10.30 P.M.. The orange-clad men walk unhurriedly across the station into the Kaisaniemi park, where young people often congregate. Right now, however, there is not a soul in the park. The patrol stays in the empty park for a while, shivering. A police car passes. The most dangerous place in the city centre does not seem that dangerous tonight.


A few weeks ago, however, there was a hostile situation, says Musse. Some immigrant boys had a row at the station, but the patrol had managed to intervene. Later, the fight had begun anew on the road to the park. One of the youths present had called the patrol, and they calmed down the situation together with the police.


The patrol moves on to Esplanadi. Apart from Kluuvi, the city centre is quiet, at least in terms of people the patrol is interested in. On Mannerheimintie the patrol runs into a group of Somali youths, who are going to have coffee in a hamburger restaurant. Like most Somalis, they are also familiar to the patrolmen.In a close-knit community, almost everyone knows each other. This is what the operation of the Channel Patrol is based on. The youths, dressed athletically, appear shy of the camera, but seem to get along well with the older men. They are peaceful, as are all the other Somali youths the group meets.It seems like the presence of the patrol on the streets upholds the social system of the immigrant community more than anything else. This may also be behind the fact that there no Somali girls to be seen."We have no trouble with the girls," says Musse over some coffee."We do not run into girls often this late. It would be shameful for them to run into us in the street. They do not want to lose face in front of their community."


Having finished their hamburgers, the patrol returns to the corner of Sokos, which has become a hang-out for young people, thanks to the warmth of the indoor area. A few familiar faces are present. Abdi, who is slightly under twenty, says he is on his way from football practice to meet some friends in town. The anorak-clad teenager smiles shyly and seems somewhat reserved. At first he did not even want to tell us his name. Later someone explains with a sly smile that Abdi is a very common name."I am probably going home soon, since there is nothing to do over here," he tells us. He mostly spends time at home and has never encountered trouble in town. "And I do not want to," he adds, just to make sure.


Not everyone is having such a peaceful evening. A slightly older man, Ali Abukar, appears. He seems to be somewhat intoxicated. He believes that the biggest problem in the centre of Helsinki is the racism of the police.Ali Abukar digs out his cell phone and shows us his list of recent calls to support his argument. There was some sort of trouble in his apartment building in Sörnäinen, and he called the police.Nobody came, but an hour and a half later someone called back. He attributes the delay to racism.


Friday has turned to Saturday.The next operation for the party is to encourage all of the rest of the Somali teenagers at the station to go home. Some get a ride from the Channel workers, some are escorted to buses and trains. Nobody objects.




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Originally posted by Che -Guevara:

Go n F yourself peacenow.

peacenow just lost his last advocate. To the gallows. lol.

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Actually in this instance Peacenow is mostly right. Most of these 'kids' have been born in Canada brought up by parent(s) who have fled to find safety and opportunity for them. Yet they kill one another in the streets of Canadian major cities while others are dying in the Gulf of Aden or the Sahara for a taste of the opportunities they have been afforded.

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i also agree with peacenow in this instance. The man speaks sense. :D


The Helsinki initiative is fantastic, although i can't see that working here in London to be honest. The lads i met in those Nordic countries seemed less provocative in their general demeanor when compared to the mongrel rabid wild hordes that terrorize our streets.


What is wrong with Somali youth today. My generation wasn't anything like today's, and i grew up in the early to late 90's.


I'm 24 and i cant relate to today's 16 year olds. What hope do the older generations have :confused:

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Most of the kids in the Somali gangs in Edmonton and Calgary are in the country less than 7 years. They have been exposed to violence and murder at an early age, way before they knew where Canada is.

They shoot and kill each other, just like they do back home. I guess human life is meaningless to them.


These boys want to make quick money, live like Kanye and get out. Unfortunately, there is no exit at the of the tunnel. Hence, the saying "Money is root of all evil".


It is really unfortunate that the youth in Alberta choose to sell crack instead of a 9-5 gig.


The South Sudanese community is also suffering of the same thing.

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^In the country 7 years? Says who? Most, if not all, have either been born here or brought here at a very young age...


I actually had a conversation with a cousin yesterday, as she has a 16 years who is doing very well in school, and life in general, mansha'allah...Like I told her 'caruur waa gacan ku haay!'...I've seen so many parents who deserted thier children and later cry a river cus 'caruurtii baa halaabay'...These are kids who grew up in the projects of Toronto; mothers busy with what's happening in heblaayo's home and tee baa ninkeeda guriga ka dajisay; fathers hanging around donut shops, chewing khat, (or my fav these days) they move hundreds of miles away for work and leave the mother to raise seven or eight kids by herself! Let's not forget caruurta lacagta lagu qaato ineysan shilin ka arkin!


I believe majority of these 'kids gone bad' are due to poor parenting...Caruurtaada hadaadan gacan kuheyn, society baa gacan ku dhigeysa...

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Peacnow is an old racist Italian dude who pisses himself in anger at the very mention of Somali. I bet you money he didnt even read the article. How are your masters treating you nowdays by the way?


Gangs and Drugs are NOT a Somali phenomena. They're a problem in MANY communities around the world.

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