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 Edmonton’s north end. Abukar had been shot a few hours earlier, an autopsy concluded. He was victim No. 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.
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.
“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.”