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Doubts cast on claims that Canadian among terrorists holed up in Nairobi mall

Kenyan soldiers hold their rifles near the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi September 23, 2013.


A Twitter account associated with the al-Shabab movement is casting doubts on other social-media claims that a Canadian is among the terrorists holed up in Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall after Saturday's bloody assault that killed at least 62 people.

During the weekend, two Twitter accounts claiming to be linked to al-Shabab, @HSM_PRESS2 and @HSMPress_arabic, had posted a list of purported members of the terrorist team, which they said included several Americans and Europeans and a 24-year-old from Ontario.

However, another Twitter account that appears to be more genuine, contradicted those claims.

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"For verification purposes, HSM Press Office did not, at any point in time, reveal any details or names about the attacker[s] at #Westgate," the Twitter account @HSMPROffice said Monday.

HSM refers to Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, the full name of the Somalian-based militant movement that is affiliated with al-Qaeda and has claimed responsibility for the attack.

A query to the @HSMPROffice account was replied from a Yahoo e-mail account that has been associated with al-Shabab since 2011.

"Until recently our account was @HSMPROffice and that has been suspended and we do not currently have any other active Twitter account," the e-mail said.

Accounts claiming to speak on behalf of al-Shabab have repeatedly been shut down by Twitter.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he didn't think that the radicalization of young Canadians is a growing threat.

"I am not worried about such a thing as a mass phenomenon" Mr. Harper said. "But obviously there are always cases that we follow very closely and work with our national partners on."

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The federal government says it will fully support any investigation into whether Canadian citizens were involved in the weekend's bloody attack against a shopping mall in Kenya.

"We are aware of the reports but do not comment on operational matters of national security," Rick Roth, Mr. Baird's director of communications, said in a statement e-mailed Sunday. "Our government will provide its full support to any investigation of a terrorist act that does or may include Canadian citizens."

There were conflicting media accounts over the authenticity of the list. CNN said "a source within al-Shabab" had confirmed the Twitter posts. However, journalists with The Associated Press and al Jazeera said their al-Shabab sources told them the accounts and names were fake.

NBC News said it was told by "senior officials" that U.S. law enforcement has compared names of Americans on the Twitter list to names of U.S. persons known to be affiliated with al-Shabab. They have found no match at this time.

Al-Shabab has been known to recruit in the Somalian diaspora. Five young Somali-Canadian men joined in 2009 and two years later a sixth was arrested as he was about to board a flight at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The name that appeared on Twitter Sunday didn't match those of the previous six Canadian recruits.

Saed Rageah, a Toronto imam who knew the previous group of six, said he had not heard of the name listed on Twitter. Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, also said he was not familiar with the name.

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With a report from Gloria Galloway in Ottawa.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More


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