After escaping war in Somalia, terror suspects grew up in Toronto.

Stewart Bell and Adrian Humphreys, CanWest News Service; National Post  Published: Monday, June 05, 2006

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TORONTO -- They came to Canada as children when their homeland Somalia fell into war and chaos. They now stand accused of taking part in a terrorist plot against the country that gave them refuge.

Two of the 17 Toronto men charged with terrorism-related offences over the weekend, Yasin Abdi Mohamed, 24, and Ali Mohamed Dirie, 22, are Somali refugees who came to Canada with their families in the early 1990s.

Both men are scheduled to appear in court north of Toronto on Wednesday to face charges related to an RCMP investigation into a terrorist bombing plot in southern Ontario.

The two friends, college students who made money selling jeans to friends, have led remarkably similar lives marked by war, migration and now alleged involvement in terrorism.

Mohammed was five when his family arrived from the Somali capital Mogadishu via Italy.

"We were pretty much raised here," said Mohamed's brother Abdul, standing in the doorway of the small apartment they shared in Toronto.

"Yasin (is) very religious. Every day he prays," his mother, Asha Muhayadin, said, pointing to the holy book she said her son read every morning.

Mohamed would admonish his siblings for not praying more often, she recalled. "He told his brothers, `You wake up, you never say thanks to God. Are you animals?"'

"My brother's a broad-minded guy that had goals for his future," Abdul said. He was never violent, he added. "He's never stabbed, shot anybody. From that to plotting on killing people, that's insane. It must be because of his last name."

The Dirie family fled Somalia in the late 1980s after their city was levelled in an aerial bombardment.

Dirie was eight years old when he arrived in Toronto as a refugee. His father had been dragged out of the family home during the Somali civil war and killed.

In his own words, Dirie had a "bad temper" when he was young, and was often angry. He was in and out of various schools.

"When he was young, he was trouble," said his younger brother Jafar, 18. But Ali was changing, he said.

"He was trying to become a better person spiritually," Jafar said. "He was learning about the religion." He began devoting more time to studying Islam and donned a white kameez and cap.

But Ali was not an extremist, his brother said. "No, he wasn't that type."

Mohamed's mother, who knows Dirie, agreed, saying, "Ali, he didn't believe like that."

In 2003, Dirie returned to the city he had fled as a child. During the visit, an older brother who still lived in Somalia introduced him to a local woman and they were married.

"He really matured," Jafar said.

Dirie returned to Toronto in January 2005. He took computer courses and started his own clothing-import business. He was trying to save money for college, Jafar said.

Mohamed, who was studying at Humber College in Toronto, soon began to work with him.

The two friends made repeated trips to the U.S. They would drive to New York state, and Dirie would buy jeans and bring them back to sell to friends and acquaintances.

Their last trip was in August. They drove to Columbus, Ohio, but this time they did not buy clothes; they bought three handguns and ammunition. They taped the guns to their legs and stashed the bullets in their socks.

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