Two Somali-Canadian women who travelled to Somalia in early January are believed to have joined the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, community members told the Toronto Star. It marks the first known example of the terrorist organization enlisting women, although the group has recruited several dozen young men from the Somali émigré community in Canada and elsewhere in the West.
"No one knows what happened ... how they were brainwashed," said Mohamed Gilao of Dejinta Beesha, a Somali-Canadian organization. "It's very, very worrying."
Previously, women recruits had only been known to have participated in the fundraising aspect of the organization. In 2010, two Somali-American women were indicted for soliciting funds for al-Shabaab in the United States and Canada, part of a group of 14 that ran a recruitment and fundraising ring.
Canada also recently intercepted its first male al-Shabaab recruit on his way to join the group. Police charged 25-year-old Mohamed Hersi with attempting to participate in a terrorist activity and counseling another to do the same. His family had been under the impression that he was travelling to Egypt to study Arabic.
Canadian police are aware of more than a dozen Somali-Canadians who left Toronto between 2009 and 2010, receiving military training and "potentially engaging in al-Shabaab-related violent activities." However, it was not until March 2010 that Canada banned aid to the al-Qaida linked terrorist organization, when it was recognized that al-Shabaab veterans were returning to the country to recruit other young men.