Abdulhamid Daar's dreams of joining al-Shabaab began as a teenager in Toronto, with long sermons from imams on how Islam was under grave threat, making it the duty of believers to fight and defend the faith. This took the 23-year-old engineering student on a journey to Somalia and jihad.
He experienced the excitement and satisfaction of being involved in the struggle for what he believed to be a righteous cause. But he also saw friends being killed, and felt the constant fear that he, too, would die or be left crippled.
He resisted constant entreaties from his mother and four brothers and sisters to return home. He left in the end, he says, because al-Shabaab became deeply divided and turned on itself viciously. Foreign volunteers began to be executed on the orders of the movement's 36-year-old leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.
"He began seeing enemies everywhere, people kept getting accused of being spies and that meant no one was safe," said Abdulhamid Daar. "A lot of people have left, a lot have died, but the Shabaab can still keep going. You saw what happened in Nairobi – there will be others in different countries. That is what Abu Zubeyr wants, that's his mission and we used to say he will continue with it until a drone gets him."
Wanna bet he's been traveling on a Canadian passport?Abdulhamid Daar (not his full name) is one of a growing number of volunteers from abroad who have left the ranks of Somalia's Islamist movement as it goes through this period of internal bloodletting. Since leaving East Africa three months ago he has been in Amsterdam and Rome; he will not go to Britain or the US, in case he ends up "somewhere like Guantanamo". He refuses to say what kind of travel documents he has been using, and indignantly rejects suggestions that he and others like him have been in contact with Western security services...