Canadians have joined ISIS to fight -- and die -- in Syria

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Story highlights

  • Officials say more than 100 Canadians are fighting abroad for terror groups, including ISIS
  • Five of the young male jihadists are linked to a mosque in the western city of Calgary, Alberta
  • One recent convert left to Syria soon after beginning worshipping there
  • Friends and Muslim leaders are concerned
This western Canadian city, now a boom town once again because of its accelerating oil business, is reeling with the news that more of its sons have joined to fight with the radical Islamic group called ISIS.
A government report issued in late August says 130 Canadian citizens have gone abroad to join terrorist groups, including 30 believed to be fighting in Syria.
In Calgary, five of those young men are linked to one downtown apartment building, which has a mosque on its ground floor.
That mosque is where a recent convert to Islam, Damian Clairmont, began worshipping in 2012. Not long after, he slipped away. His mother told CNN that her son said he was going to Cairo to study Arabic. Instead, she says, he flew to Istanbul and later across the Turkish border into Syria.
Clairmont's boyhood friend, Justin Thibeau, says he spoke to Clairmont briefly last December 23.
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Thibeau says his friend sounded "normal," just as if he wasn't in Syria.
Less than a month later, the 22-year-old would be killed on an ISIS battlefield near Aleppo, Syria, fighting against Syrian rebels of the Free Syrian Army.
"I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't see this coming," Thibeau told CNN.
"If he was there for reasons he thought true, there was nothing that could have stopped him."
And only a few weeks ago, one of two Calgary brothers who disappeared in 2012 emerged on Twitter, praising the ISIS terrorists who executed freelance American journalist James Foley.
Collin Gordon tweeted under his new Twitter name, Abu Ibrahim Canadi.
"The video of James Foley losing his neck is the perfection of Terrorism," he wrote.
Collin Gordon and his brother Gregory both said that they had joined ISIS after leaving Canada.
Another Calgary Muslim, Farah Shirdon, showed up on YouTube, burning his Canadian passport and vowing to bring his fight home.
"This is a message to Canada and all the Americans," he says on the video. "We are coming and we will destroy you."
Shirdon was also killed.
All of this has made Muslim leaders in Calgary say they are deeply concerned about what one of them called "criminal radicalization."
A conference discussing this will take place in Calgary on Thursday, the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
"We plan to go beyond primary prevention and focus on how to interrupt criminal acts of violence and even find worst-case scenarios of violent radicals returning from foreign theaters," said Madhi Qasas, one of the conference organizers.