Five years after his two young sons disappeared, Abdul Abubakar had given up hope of ever seeing them again.
His children’s mother, Anisa Mohamed Ibrahim, 35, was arrested on Thursday in Hamilton, Ontario. She is accused of the unlawful abduction of her sons, aged 8 and 10, and disobeying a court order in the U.K.
The Star broke the news to Abubakar by telephone on Friday afternoon.
“Oh my God,” he said from Manchester. “Is that true? Where are my children? Oh my God. Oh my God.”
The children were in the care of Children’s Aid in Hamilton, according to Toronto police.
“I’m absolutely shaking,” said Abubakar, a former warehouse worker. “I’m numb to be honest. Where are my children? Oh my God. Oh my God.
“I want to hug them. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. My children! I’m pinching myself.”
When the Star called Abubakar again 10 minutes after the first phone call, the local police had just knocked on his door to tell him the news.
“Five years I’ve been waiting, with no idea where my children were — alive or dead or healthy or anything. No idea,” Abubakar said.
“I never thought I’d see them again. I thought they’d be taken to Somalia, where their mother is from.”
“I really thought they were in Somalia now.
“This is the best news I’ve ever heard. Absolutely amazing. Amazing.”
This is not the first time Abubakar says he has been told his children have been found.
“Oh man,” he said. “One time before, a couple of days after they went missing, a lady from the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) told me they had been found.
“She said, ‘Is this Mr. Abubakar? Your two boys have been found. I can’t tell you where they are but they’ve been found.’”
“I was jumping and running all over the place and telling everyone.
“The next day she called back.
“She made a mistake. I said, ‘What? Can you say that again? Are you kidding me?’”
Manchester police could not be reached for comment on whether such a mistake had been made.
This time, there is no error. Toronto police said in a release Abubakar’s two sons were found living with their mother in Hamilton under pseudonyms.
The Toronto Fugitive Squad (TFS) has been working on the investigation with the GMP in England and the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC) since 2010, according to a 2012 release from MCSC.
Authorities have believed for several years that Ibrahim travelled to Toronto from Frankfurt, Germany, the release said.
In August 2013, Abubakar posted to Pinterest and Facebook that his sons had been reported living in Toronto.
“Everybody’s been looking for them,” Abubakar said.
“We’ve been powerless. I didn’t know what to do, where to look. People were sending me misleading messages saying she was in Ohio.”
“I lost hope. My heart was broken.”
In a state of shock and unable to fully comprehend the information he was hearing, Abubakar said he’s going to come to Canada to get his children, who are currently “doing well” in the care of Children’s Aid, according to the agency.
He plans on meeting with the rest of his family Saturday so he can figure out a way to amass enough money for the airplane fare.
“I’ve been very angry all these years, not knowing where they are,” he said. “Now I can start from zero with them.
“You have made my day. I’ll sleep well tonight.”
On Friday evening, Abdubakar said he had not yet spoken with his children. Besides the Star, he said, nobody in Canada has reached out to him.
Ibrahim appeared in a Hamilton courtroom Friday, aided by a translator, and facing an extradition warrant. The judge put over the case for two weeks so that she could find a lawyer. She will appear again Aug. 28
MCSC CEO Amanda Pick said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case, because it’s before the courts. But she said that generally, cases of international abduction like this present unique challenges to investigators because of the different jurisdictions involved.