Over the last few years, in public appeals and repeated community meetings, leaders of Edmonton’s Somali community have raised alarm about radicalization of their youth, and the threat of ISIS inspiring terrorists or recruiting soldiers from their midst. They’ve suffered grief before: It’s believed they lost three young Edmonton cousins to overseas fighting for Islamic State in 2014. Community organizers are proud to say they’ve worked closely with RCMP and Edmonton police when they learn of security threats—the hand-in-hand work said to be the best way to prevent extremist beliefs becoming extremist violence.
Yet only now, after a 30-year-old Somali refugee was arrested for an attack that injured five people, are police agencies and members of Edmonton’s thousands-strong Somali diaspora jointly taking a close look Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, charged with five counts of attempted murder and still being investigated for possible terrorism offences.
Two years ago, city police and RCMP had investigated Sharif after receiving a complaint about him espousing extremist ideological views—reportedly incoherent rants about genocide, and praise for Islamic State leaders. Police at least interviewed the complainant and the suspect, performing what they called this week an “exhaustive investigation” yet concluding the young resident didn’t pose a security threat and didn’t warrant charges or further investigation.
Flash forward to 2017, and much wider, more intense scrutiny is being exercised after a violent atrocity, apparently inspired by Islamic State, in which a police officer was attacked with a car and then stabbed, and four pedestrians were later struck by a U-Haul truck being chased by police through Edmonton’s downtown.
“For us, we’re still trying to figure out who this person is,” says Ahmed Abdulkadir, executive director of the Ogaden Somali Community of Alberta and one of Edmonton’s most outspoken Somali leaders regarding police collaboration with his community. He’s describing efforts by a coalition of city organizations to help police with their current investigation into Sharif.
This article continues at [Maclean’s] Deep dive into Edmonton terror suspect’s background: A little too late?