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CSIS probes case of B.C. man killed in Chechnya

OTTAWA - Canada's spy agency is investigating the mysterious death of a Vancouver man in the mountains of Chechnya and seeking information about the fate of two of his friends.

Radwan Khalil Abubaker

Radwan Khalil was killed last week in war-torn Chechnya, near the border with Azerbaijan, say Russian officials. They identified the body by means of Canadian identification found with it, including a British Columbia driver's licence.

A Russian military spokesman said Khalil was one of four fighters who clashed with special forces outside the village of Niki-Khita in the mountainous Kurchaloi region of Chechnya.

Russian officials claim Khalil was a munitions expert.

But the family of the Sudanese-born man say he was only interested in music and sports, and knew nothing of the Chechen cause.

"He was in Canada virtually his whole life. He's never had any military training. And basically he was into soccer, he was a hip hop dancer, he was a model, he was an extra in movies," said Phil Rankin, the family's lawyer. "He wasn't politically involved at all."

* Coverage from CBC Vancouver

Khalil, whose full name is Radwan Khalil Abubaker, left Vancouver this summer with a friend to visit Khalil's father in Saudi Arabia. The young men then decided to go to Azerbaijan for the wedding of another friend from Vancouver.

That was the last anyone heard from Khalil or either of his friends.

Khalil's family say CSIS agents visited on Saturday and that co-workers of his Azerbaijani friend, Azer Tagiev, have also been interviewed.

Colleagues of Tagiev say he suddenly quit his job in Vancouver this summer to return to Azerbaijan. Rankin says Tagiev may have the answer to how Khalil wound up in the middle of the Chechen civil war.

"Nobody knows why he was in Russia. But Russia is a transit point to Azerbaijan. So there could have been a reason for that. The wedding was sort of a last-minute affair," said Rankin.

Foreign Affairs won't confirm if Khalil's two friends are also missing somewhere in Chechnya, but told CBC News they are talking with Russian authorities.

Ottawa has asked the Russian Defence Ministry about the possibility that two more Canadians have gone missing about the same time as Khalil.

The department says it's trying to get Khalil's body returned to Canada to confirm his identity, but the department is saying little else.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew says he doesn't know why the remains have not yet been returned to Canada, and knows nothing more about the status of the body.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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