Funeral held in Halifax-area mosque for 16-year-old homicide victim from Syria

HALIFAX — A Muslim funeral was held Wednesday for a 16-year-old Halifax boy who police say was the victim of a homicide.

The Ummah Mosque in Halifax posted a message on its website saying the service for Ahmad Maher Al Marrach, who was found badly injured in a parking garage on Monday, would be held at a Kearny Lake Mosque in suburban Bedford. A burial at a Muslim cemetery in nearby Hammonds Plains would follow.

"Please pray for the family, his loved ones and all our youth, as it’s a devastating loss for all in the community," the mosque said.

The injured boy was found next to the Halifax Shopping Centre on Mumford Road around 5 p.m., and he died later in hospital, police have said. At around 5:20 p.m., two youths were arrested aboard a Halifax Transit bus near North Street, but they were released Tuesday without charges.

Halifax Regional Police say they believe the killing was not a random act, but few other details were released, including the cause of death.

An online fundraising campaign has been started to help the boy's family, who it says arrived in Canada after escaping the war in Syria.

"Ahmad’s family came to us as Syrian newcomers fleeing the horrific war," says a message on the GoFundMe site. "A family of seven children managed to come to Canada for a 'better life.' Unfortunately, that is not what they found." The message goes on to say the family is living in an impoverished, dangerous environment, where the education system is failing them.

"The trauma this poor family has faced is unimaginable and now, with the news of Ahmad’s death, I can’t begin to imagine how his family is coping when they were barely surviving before all this," the fundraising organizer says. "This mother needs to grieve and her children need all the support they can get."

By Wednesday afternoon, the online campaign had raised more than $30,000 for the family.

Scores of people expressed their sympathy for Ahmad and his family.

"To the family of this sweet young man, I am very sorry that this has happened to you," said one contributor.

"People can be so cruel, but please know that this town is also filled with amazing people as well. My daughter knew your son. He was very well liked. He will be forever missed and loved by all of those who knew him, and also by those of us who did not."

Ahmad was a student at Citadel High School in Halifax, where a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that school counsellors, psychologists and other staff members have been made available to his grieving classmates.

"When a young person passes away, it impacts our entire community," communications officer Lindsey Bunin said. "We know it's important to talk during times of grief and sadness. Staff is ready and available to support any student who needs to connect."

Investigators are asking anyone with information about what happened or video from the area to contact police.

Police say they are aware of information and videos circulating on social media about the boy's death. They have warned people not to share that content, saying it could lead to the spread of misinformation and undermine the police investigation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press