In June 2015, Somali national Ali Omar Ader was arrested in Ottawa at the end of a remarkable five-year undercover operation designed to lure him to Canada. He will stand trial in October for his alleged role in the kidnapping of Canadian Amanda Lindhout. Last week, for the first time, an Ottawa courtroom heard details of that RCMP undercover operation, dubbed Project Slype.
Nov. 26, 2009: Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan are released from captivity after $600,000 in ransom is paid by their families. They had been abducted just outside of Mogadishu, Somalia by a criminal gang, and held for 460 days. Lindhout revealed in her best-selling memoir, A House in the Sky, that she had been tortured and raped during her captivity.
January 2010: The principal negotiator for the Somali gang during the hostage crisis — a man who identified himself as “Adam” — calls Lindhout’s mother out of the blue, seeking to get in touch with Amanda.
June 25, 2010: An RCMP undercover officer, claiming to be a representative of the Lindhout family, cold calls Adam to find out what he wants. Unbidden, Adam begins to relate details of the Lindhout kidnapping, and reveals that he has letters — written by Lindhout during her captivity — that he wants to sell to her for $15,000 U.S. He also tells the undercover officer, A.K., that he wants to write a book about Somalia’s troubled history.
June 29, 2010: A.K. calls Adam and tells him that Lindhout may be interested in purchasing the letters, but she needs more time to think about it. Adam offers to send some digital copies of the letters to highlight their value.
July 2010: Adam sends two scanned pages from Lindhout’s cache of letters.
Sept. 2, 2010: A.K. sends Adam an email, asking for more information about the letters; he also expresses interest in the book idea. In his reply, Adam says his book about recent Somali history, A Slow Genocide, will make him a millionaire.
Sept. 4, 2010: A.K. tells Adam in an email that the Lindhout family does not have much money. He asks Adam for a summary of his book, and offers to share it with a friend in the publishing industry.
Nov. 6, 2010: Following weeks of talk about the book project, Adam sends 16 pages of Lindhout letters. Discussions now focus on the book.
December 2010: A.K. tells Adam that a publisher is interested in his book. Meanwhile, Adam reveals that his real name is Ali Omar Ader. He emails the table of contents from his book and a copy of his degree from Somalia’s African University; he tells A.K. that he’s interested in pursuing a master’s program in international relations.
Dec. 20, 2010: A.K. tells Ader that he’s doing some research for him on master’s programs in Canada.
April 21, 2011: A.K. sends Ader a list of five international relations programs available at Canadian universities.
May 9, 2011: In reply to Ader’s questions about gaining asylum in Canada, A.K. says he doesn’t know much about the refugee process, and directs him to the United Nations. A.K. also relates that he has received positive feedback from the publisher.
Aug. 9, 2011: Ader forwards to A.K. an email from the UN, saying he’s not eligible for the international refugee program because he has not been displaced from his country. He continues to reiterate a desire to get his family — he has a wife and five children — out of Somalia.
March 21, 2012: A.K. floats the idea of signing a contract with Ader to work as his book agent. He tells Ader about his successful consulting firm, Intercon Communications, and says he would charge him a 10-per-cent fee rather than his usual 15 per cent.
April 2012: A.K. raises the possibility of a business meeting in Dubai.
Sept. 11, 2012: Ader sends an email to A.K., asking if the Dubai meeting will take place. A.K. tells him that he needs a completed book manuscript before they can meet to discuss next steps. A.K. later informs Ader that he will be in India in May, and that they can meet on the island nation of Mauritius.
May 31, 2013: A.K. and Ader meet for the first time in Mauritius at the luxurious Hilton Hotel. The RCMP arrange for Ader to travel to Mauritius, and pay for his plane ticket, hotel and expenses. They also enlist the co-operation of police on the island. At a breakfast meeting, Ader tells A.K. that he was approached by one of the gang members who had kidnapped Lindhout several hours after her abduction. Ader says he was asked to work as a translator and negotiator for the group, but did not have any advanced knowledge of the kidnapping. He says he became “the group’s brains,” and filmed a hostage video sent to Al-Jazeera. The two men later sign a contract, which includes a disclosure clause: Ader repeats his story to fulfil the clause.
July 9, 2013: In response to more appeals for help in securing asylum, A.K. tells Ader that he has no government contacts. By this time, Ader is calling A.K. his “brother” “and “best friend.”
December 2013: A.K. advises Ader that, once he signs a book contract, he’ll get a $10,000 advance. He suggests the book money will solve his security concerns.
2014: A.K. tells Ader that he has suffered a heart attack, and that their book plan has to be put on hold while he recovers. In reality, the RCMP need more time to solve legal and logistical issues, and to put the pieces in place to bring Ader to Canada.
June 9, 2015: Ader lands in Halifax and is put on a private jet to Ottawa. He meets A.K. at an airport hotel. As a welcoming gift, A.K. gives Ader a copy of Lindhout’s book, A House in the Sky. Ader tells A.K. he wants to apologize to Lindhout and explain his actions in Somalia. A.K. has told Ader that Lindhout has forgiven him.
June 10, 2015: A.K. and Ader meet in a hotel boardroom to discuss the book deal with “Chris,” an undercover RCMP officer playing the role of a publishing executive with a fictitious firm, Catalina Publishing. The meeting is secretly videotaped by an RCMP undercover team. With A.K. acting as Ader’s book agent, Chris walks them through a detailed contract that includes clauses about royalties, reserved publication rights, copyright infringement and dispute arbitration. The $234,000 deal includes a $10,000 signing bonus, the promise of future books and the possibly of a documentary on the Lindhout kidnapping.
In keeping with a disclosure clause, Chris asks Ader to tell him the full story of his involvement in the Lindhout kidnapping in order to protect his firm from negative publicity. Ader unfolds his story again: He was approached by a member of the gang that had abducted Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan; he agreed to work for the gang as a translator and hostage negotiator in exchange for a share of the ransom. Ader confirmed he used an alias, “Adam,” during his negotiations with Lindhout’s mother. Ader also told the undercover officers that he only had contact with the hostages for the first three months of their captivity, and that he didn’t know Lindhout was tortured or raped. He was paid $10,000 U.S. for his work as a negotiator. “I was expecting more,” he told the men.
June 11, 2015: Ader is arrested and charged with kidnapping under extraterritorial provisions of the Criminal Code.
U.S. Put 92 Somalis on a Deportation Flight, Then Brought Them Back
Ninety-two Somali citizens were flown out of the United States under orders of deportation on Thursday, but their plane never made it to Somalia. The flight landed in the West African country of Senegal and, facing logistical problems, was rerouted back to the United States.
It was an unexpected, 5,000-mile backtrack for the migrants, some of whom have lived in the United States for years, or even decades, while on a list for deportation because they had entered the country without proper documentation.
In recent weeks, dozens of Somali citizens were transported from their homes in the United States — many were living in Minnesota — to Louisiana in preparation for the flight. A few, with the help of lawyers, managed to secure stays of removal.
The 92 on the plane got only as far as Senegal’s capital, Dakar, according to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In an emailed statement on Friday, the agency said it was notified that a relief flight crew was “unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar,” so the aircraft and detainees spent time parked at the airport there. It added that “various logistical options were explored, and ultimately ICE decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees.”
War, famine and disease have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia since the central government collapsed in 1991. Militants, including members of the Shabab, an Islamist terrorist group, are still carrying out deadly attacks in the Horn of Africa country. A pair of truck explosions killed hundreds of people on one of the busiest streets in Mogadishu, the capital, in October. It was the deadliest attack the city had experienced in decades.
Kim Hunter, a lawyer whose firm represents two men who were on the flight, said it did not make sense to send her clients back to such a dangerous country.
“The security situation is abysmal,” she said on Thursday. “I, apparently, was naïve because I actually believed that following the Oct. 14 bombing, this flight might be suspended.”
Ms. Hunter learned on Friday that the flight had turned around and her clients’ deportations had been rescheduled, though it was unclear for when. An ICE spokeswoman said the agency does not provide that information in advance.
Ms. Hunter said she also had no advance notice when immigration officials recently transported five of her clients from their Minnesota homes. (They were first taken to Louisiana to prepare for their deportation.) Her law firm scrambled to secure stays of removal for the men and helped three avoid the flight.
Now that the other two have had their deportations delayed, Ms. Hunter said she would keep working to prevent their removal. Neither client has a criminal record, and both have been in the United States for more than a decade. One is married to a permanent resident and has children who are United States citizens.
“We’re inclined to think that this sort of failed flight reflects on the fact that more deportations are being carried out in haste and are perhaps not as well-planned as they might have been previously,” she added.
One Somali woman in Minnesota, who did not want to give her name for fear of getting her family in trouble with the authorities, said in a phone interview on Friday that her cousin was among those on the flight.
She said she had been desperate for answers since Wednesday, when her cousin called from Louisiana saying he was about to be deported. “I was very sad. I cried, and he told me not to make him cry,” she said, adding that it would be dangerous for him to land in Mogadishu because he had no connections there. “He hasn’t seen Somalia for the last 20 years.”
Many Somali citizens who are in the United States without documentation have been able to stay for years despite deportation orders because Somalia would not grant them the necessary travel documents. Mogadishu, which opened an embassy in Washington in 2015, appears to be cooperating with American officials to accept more of its citizens back.
The number of Somali people being deported from the United States has risen since 2014. During that fiscal year, 65 Somali citizens were removed from the United States. That number jumped to 120 the next year, and 198 the year after that.
In the fiscal year 2017, 521 Somali citizens were deported, according to the most recent report from ICE. A spokeswoman for the agency said there were five chartered flights to Somalia that year.
Canada’s immigration minister warns against illegal crossings at Minnesota’s northern border
Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, arrived in Minnesota just days after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand for now new travel restrictions for eight countries, including Somalia — the land a teenage Hussen fled with his family.
But even as he has come to symbolize for some the divergent immigration philosophies on either side of the U.S.-Canada border, Hussen shuns criticism of the Trump administration’s approach. In fact, he was in the Twin Cities this week in part to discourage a spike in asylum-seekers crossing into Canada this year that has tested the country’s famously welcoming attitude.
“We are huge fans of immigration, but we want people to immigrate through the regular channels,” he said.
In a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Hussen touted Canada’s measured approach, including a gradual increase in immigration planned over the next three years.
He met with resettlement agency staff and other advocates, plugging a unique Canadian program in which private citizens and churches sponsor some refugees.
Members of the local Somali community, where he enjoys rock star status, threw him a welcoming reception in Minneapolis.
“He is an icon,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a local community leader and Bush Foundation fellow. “People see him as an example of what is possible in the West.”
The first Somali-Canadian elected to parliament and appointed as minister, Hussen was 16 when he arrived alone in Toronto, where older brothers had resettled earlier. He has spoken of finding a sense of belonging on his high school track team and of enduring a two-hour commute as he worked at a gas station to save money for college.
He got a law degree from the University of Ottawa and practiced criminal and immigration law. Once a receptionist in an opposition politician’s office, he was elected to parliament in 2015. In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped him to lead the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
“I am a big champion of our immigration system because I have been through it,” said Hussen, whose visit to Minneapolis was his third to the United States since becoming minister.
In the media, Hussen is often cast as an emblem of Canada’s stance against anti-immigration sentiments sweeping the United States and Europe. But he is unfailingly diplomatic about the differences between the Canadian and American approaches, saying only he has a good working relationship with counterparts on this side of the border. And, he stresses, Canada is by no means unified in support of more immigration.
A recent rise in illegal border crossings into Canada has triggered pushback from conservative politicians there and concerns from border communities such as the Manitoba city of Emerson, unsettled and overwhelmed by the arrivals. In Manitoba, many of those arrivals have been Somalis who had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in the United States. Now, Hussen and some Canadian lawmakers are reaching out to immigrant communities to highlight that border crossers undergo rigorous screening and face deportation if their asylum claims fall short.
“We don’t want people uprooting their lives based on false information,” Hussen said. “Crossing the border irregularly is not a free ticket to Canada.”
Ahmed said word in the local Somali community remains that Canada offers a much gentler welcome to those arriving at its border with asylum claims. He spoke of a friend, a permanent resident who faced deportation after a criminal conviction, who crossed into Canada this year. Though he doesn’t know yet if he will be granted asylum, the friend reports receiving subsidized housing and free legal help, Ahmed said.
To a packed auditorium at the Humphrey School, Hussen touted a plan the Canadian government released in November that will bring in almost 1 million new immigrants by 2020. About 60 percent will be employment-based immigrants, largely arriving through a merit-based system that awards points for education, language and professional skills, among other factors.
Hussen said doing immigration right requires an investment: The Canadian government is spending $1 billion this year on language classes, help with finding jobs and other integration efforts. But he said bringing in newcomers is crucial to ward off a looming labor shortage given Canada’s aging population.
“We strongly believe immigration is key to our future success in Canada,” he said.
Hussen also praised a Canadian refugee resettlement system in which, alongside the government’s program, private citizens and organizations commit to supporting refugees for a year.
The country has found these refugees do better easing into Canadian life. Hussen said the United Kingdom and several Latin American countries are modeling new programs on the Canadian approach, though he hasn’t yet fielded inquiries from the United States.
Hussen said with more refugees displaced globally than ever before in modern history, Canada plans to remain a key player in resettlement: “More people are on the move, and we can’t turn our heads away.”
Plane carrying deportees to Somalia returns to the United States
A plane with deportees to Somalia, including at least four from Minnesota, returned to the United States Friday after a stop in Senegal that immigration authorities said did not go according to plan.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that a flight with 92 deportees headed back after a refueling and pilot exchange stop in Dakar. As the plane landed in Dakar, ICE was notified relief crew members were not able to get enough rest because of issues with their hotel, and the plane remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew time to rest.
“Various logistical options were explored, and ultimately ICE decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees,” said the statement from the agency, which declined to provide further details.
Local attorneys for several of the deportees on the flight said they were baffled by the turn of events — but hopeful the flight’s return might offer some of their clients a long-shot opening to block their deportations.
The number of Somalia natives the United States deports to their homeland has increased markedly in recent years, and the Trump administration this year removed that country from a list of nations deemed uncooperative on deportations. The U.S. government has argued that conditions in the East African country have improved sufficiently to return people there. Advocates have pointed to a string of deadly terror attacks in Somalia as they insist the country remains unsafe.
John Bruning, an attorney at Kim Hunter Law in St. Paul, said his office had two clients on the flight, both of whom unsuccessfully applied for asylum in the late 1990s and early 2000s. After receiving final deportation orders, they had been checking in with ICE regularly for years until they were detained earlier this year. One of them worked as a cardiovascular technician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. In a dramatic last-minute turnaround, a federal judge blocked temporarily the deportations of three other clients who were slated to be on Thursday’s flight.
“This doesn’t add up to me,” Bruning said of ICE’s statement. “We’re still trying to wrap our minds around what is going on.”
Bruning said the two men on the flight have pending claims with the Board of Immigration Appeals though it is unlikely that decisions in those cases will come during what will probably be a short stint in the United States until another flight to Africa can be arranged. Still, he said his office is trying to find out more about the circumstances of the return to determine if it might offer any chance to make a fresh case on their behalf.
Habon Osman, whose husband Cabduqaadir Mayow was on the plane, said she hoped the plane’s return might give him another chance. The couple is legally married, but her husband was arrested days before their religious ceremony. “It’s the worst story of my life,” she said. “I have a little bit of hope he came back, but you never know.”
Linus Chan at the University of Minnesota’s Center for New Americans, which is representing another deportee on the flight, said he is also exploring whether the plane’s return might provide an opening for his client. He said he was encouraged by the outcome in federal court for Bruning’s three clients.
He said the flight’s return seems like an ordeal for those on board, though he noted ICE might not be at fault for the issues in Dakar. The agency said the air conditioning remained on throughout the stay in Dakar, and the plane was stocked with enough food and water.
“You’ve been sitting in detention for months,” he said. “You’re on a plane to Somalia, and the next thing you know you are heading back to the US. That’s got to be terrible.”