The man accused of perpetrating a pair of attacks in Edmonton on Saturday had originally been ordered deported back to Somalia from the United States in 2011, VICE News has learned from a U.S. government agency.
A man named Abdullahi Hassan Sharif had been detained in an immigration jail in California in 2011 and eventually ordered deported back to Somalia.
An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told VICE News that, to their knowledge, this Sharif is “the same person” alleged to have perpetrated the Edmonton attack over the weekend.
Homeland Security spells Sharif’s name slightly different than the man arrested in Edmonton over the weekend: Abdullahi, instead of Abdulahi; and Hassan, instead of Hasan.
“Our operators have been talking to individuals to verify this,” department spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez told VICE News over the phone, although she declined to confirm whether these individuals included Canadian law enforcement.
A Canadian official with knowledge of the situation said the information is “consistent” with their knowledge of Sharif’s history.
The details sheds further light on Sharif, who was granted refugee status in Canada in 2012, the year he was supposed to be removed from the U.S.
On July 15, 2011, U.S. border agents transferred Sharif to ICE custody. He was then held in an immigration jail in San Diego, California.
On September 22, 2011, an immigration judge ordered Sharif to be removed back to Somalia.
“He was in the US illegally and after a review of his case, an immigration judge ordered him removed,” the spokesperson said in an email.
And “Sharif waived his right to appeal that decision,” according to the department.
Sharif had no known criminal history at the time of his encounters with ICE, the email added.
Sharif was released from the facility that November, “due to a lack of likelihood of his removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” the spokesperson wrote. He was supposed to have been supervised upon his release by ICE.
He was ordered to report back to ICE in January, 2012. But he never did.
“Efforts…to locate him were not successful,” the U.S. official said.
Over the weekend, Canada’s federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters that Sharif crossed legally into Canada in 2012 at a regular border crossing and obtained refugee status at that time. Goodale said his refugee application raised no red flags at that time.
A spokesperson for Canada’s immigration department told VICE News on Tuesday evening in an email that “only individuals who are inadmissible, including for serious criminality, would be ineligible to make an asylum claim. Being detained for immigration purposes in another country would not prevent someone from being able to make an asylum claim in Canada.”
No other details on Sharif’s case could be provided due to privacy concerns, the spokesperson added.
Mahamad Accord, a member of the Somali community in Edmonton and a spokesperson for the Edmonton Coalition of Human Rights and Justice, told VICE News he’s looking for answers about Sharif’s life. Accord said he has been told that Sharif has a brother in Toronto, but not much more is known about that at this point.
Accord said he hopes to have further information on Sharif tomorrow based on conversations with other members of the Somali community.
In 2015, the RCMP investigated Sharif for espousing “extremist ideology” but never pursued any criminal measures. They eventually dropped the investigation based on a lack of evidence, and did not deem him a threat to public safety.
This piece has been updated to include further comments from government officials and Mahamad Accord.