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Fort McMurray worker killed in Lebanon

EDMONTON – Global News has learned a Canadian, who lived in Fort McMurray, was killed in Lebanon on Sunday evening.

The victim has been identified as 25-year-old Mohammad el-Zarif. His family in Alberta says he was in Lebanon visiting family.

The incident where el-Zarif was killed made international news because two army checkpoints were attacked on Sunday evening.

El-Zarif was killed in the second incident, which happened in Sidon, which is about 40 kilometres south of Beirut.

According to reports, a man blew himself up with a hand grenade at a checkpoint. Soldiers opened fire in retaliation, and el-Zarif was one of two other people nearby who were killed.

While the details of the man’s death were not confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, a spokesperson with DFATD issued a brief statement Thursday saying: “We are aware that a Canadian citizen was killed in Lebanon. Canadian officials are liaising with local authorities.”

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El-Zarif’s sister tells Global News Mohammad, who worked with his brother-in-law, left Fort McMurray on Nov. 15 to visit his family, including his pregnant wife, in Sidon, Lebanon.

El-Zarif’s cousin said moments before he was killed, he was on his phone with his wife, saying he was on his way to his in-laws. Aiman Elzarif says the loss has been tough on the entire family.

“(It’s) your cousin that you grew up with, and all of a sudden you get a phone call from overseas that he got shot, especially by the Army…the first day when I found out and I called [his family], it was hard on them.

“His mom was a total wreck.”

According to the family, el-Zarif was going to Lebanon to see his wife’s family when the incident at the checkpoint unfolded.

“Questions you have, but answers you don’t get- especially in Lebanon, right? It’s sad. Not every country is like Canada,” Aiman said.

“We were shocked this time as a community,” said Ali Johma, a leader in the Fort McMurray Muslim community.

Johma said the news has quickly spread through the community.

“Here, the people, everybody knows Mohammad here in Fort McMurray. They were shocked.  Lots of people, they cried [for] him.  Lots of people said, ‘what’s going on? Where do we live nowadays?’  And people, they don’t feel secure when they go there, but sometimes you have to go there, because you have your family.”

He described el-Zarif as someone who worked at his job and spent his time between the two countries.

“According to my information… he used to come here and visit his sister and his brother-in-law,” said Johma.   “He has a brother-in-law; he has a painting company here.  And he used to come here sometime to help him for a short time: one month, two months, three months, and he goes back to see his family back home in Lebanon.”

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“My cousin, actually, he’s the sweetest guy you could ever meet. He’s down to earth, humble. He cares about everything,” Aiman said.

WATCH: Fort McMurray worker killed in Lebanon 

Global News has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs, but has not received a response.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News