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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette




(Posted 11:30 p.m., Mar. 30)
'The whole thing is a nightmare'
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

Twenty-six-year old Qasim Khawaja was sitting in his family's Princess Louise Drive home, idly channel surfing, when his entire life and the lives of his immediate family were suddenly turned upside down.

Two police officers stand outside a Fallingbrook home where a massive raid was carried out by the RCMP's anti-terrosim squad on Monday. Fred Sherwin/Photo

"All I heard was a loud bang coming from the front door and the next thing I knew there were policemen with machine guns everywhere. They yelled at me and my sister to 'get down, get down'. They were pointing their guns at our heads and yelling. One guy pushed me down and then he tied my hands behind my back," Qasim said during a telephone interview with Orléans Online Tuesday night.

Not far away from their Fallingbrook home, Qasim's mother, Azra, was being apprehended in the parking lot of the Food Basics store on Tenth Line Road. Across the city, Qasim's brothers, Momin, 24, Moshin, 18, and Tanzeel, 20, were also being picked up in separate actions carried out by members of the RCMP's anti-terrorism unit.

Four of the five family members were released after being questioned for several hours by investigators. Momin Khawaja was taken into custody and remains under detention although why, where, or for how long he's being detained remains a mystery to his family more than 24 hours later.

"No one is saying anything. We don't even know where they're keeping him," says a weary Qasim, who hasn't had any sleep since the raid. "The whole thing is a nightmare."

Qasims' father Mahboob Khawaja is away teaching at a university in Saudi Arabia. Although the Ottawa Citizen has interviewed Khawaja, Qasim's family has been unable to reach him. They are now worried for his whereabouts. He may have been detained by Saudi authorities, or he may be trying to make his way back to Canada, although what will happen once he gets here is anybody's guess.

For now Qasim is worried about his mother, who he says has been left emotionally distraught as a result of the entire ordeal. He's also concerned about his brother and what he's going through.

"We just feel humiliated. We've been here for such a long time and to go through this. It's not right. They basically treat you like you are guilty and then try to find some evidence to support their theory," says Qasim who attended high school at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School along with the rest of his brothers and sister.

The Khawaja's ended up spending the night with friends while the RCMP continued to sweep through their large, two storey house. When they were finally able to return late Tuesday morning, the inside of the house was in total shambles.

"They ripped everything apart. Everything is all over the place," says Qasim.

RCMP officials were scheduled to hold a press conference on the case this afternoon, but it was cancelled at the last moment. For now, the only thing they are saying is that the investigation is ongoing – as is the nightmare for Qasim and his family.

(This story was made possible thanks


Posted Jan. 12

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