Wednesday, August 25, 2010


*** Yet, the RCMP thinks it can deal with this without the Muslim community. Interesting. MS ***

OTTAWA -- He lived in a quiet townhouse in Ottawa, with a Mazda parked in the driveway. Neighbors could think of nothing unusual about about him.

The terror suspects arrested in Ottawa this morning are being described as ordinary Canadians who were allegedly attracted to al-Qaeda’s message of violence.

The case suggests that four years after the RCMP and CSIS broke up the Toronto 18, Canada is still confronting similar groups of extremists who support al-Qaeda.

This “homegrown Islamist extremism,” as CSIS refers to it, is Canada’s number one terrorist threat, according to senior intelligence and law enforcement officials.

“Right now we’re seeing a trend around what you would call the homegrown type of terrorism,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said in a recent interview.

“Young Canadians are being radicalized to an extremist ideology and want to support that ideology with violence,” said A. Comm. Michaud, the head of National Security Criminal Investigations.

Early on Wednesday, the RCMP and Ottawa Police Service broke up an alleged Ottawa terrorist group with suspected affiliations to al-Qaeda. The ringleader had alleged trained in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

More details were expected at a news conference on Thursday. The suspects appear to have similar backgrounds to the Toronto 18, young Canadians who plotted attacks in southern Ontario, suggesting homegrown radicalization remains a problem for Canada.

“It’s not diminishing,” said Michael King, a McGill University PhD student who has been researching radicalization. “It seems like it’s either keeping constant or increasing, so I would agree that its’ definitely a big problem.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in an Aug. 9 speech that radicalization and the movement of Canadians to overseas training camps were increasing concerns. “These individuals reject the values on which our country is based, and they must be stopped,” he said.

But it is not a simple task.

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are ardent propagandists. They use the Internet to promote their dark ideology, which revolves around the belief that there is a Western conspiracy against Islam and that terrorism is justified both to defend the religion and impose it on non-Muslims.

“We don’t have an issue with anybody that has extremist views,” A. Comm. Michaud said. “But it does become criminal when somebody wants to use violence to support those views, so that is one of the threats that we’re seeing more and more.”

Experts and officials said homegrown extremists are now becoming radicalized mostly on the Internet. They may then make their own way to overseas training camps.

At those camps, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are apparently encouraging Western recruits to return to their home countries to carry out attacks. They are not given specific missions or targets but are told to strike when opportunity arises.

“It’s self-radicalization basically and the Internet plays a big part in that process,” A. Comm. Michaud said. “Self-radicalization and then taking the steps that they need in order to join whatever group that they feel they should affiliate with.”

Police and intelligence officers are monitoring Canadians they suspect are training in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The main concern is that they will return to Canada to conduct terrorist operations.

“That they would go and receive training in terrorist tactics is our first concern,” the assistant commissioner said. “But then the second one is, what do they do once they receive this training?

“To use it overseas against allied countries is one thing. But also if ever they were to come back to Canada, then we find individuals that have that capacity to use those skills on our soil. So that is definitely a major concern.”

Some extremists are candid about their views. Salman Hossain, a self-professed extremist Muslim from Mississauga, Ont., repeatedly posted messages on his website calling for terrorist attacks in Canada. But most are more secretive, using code words to chat about getting “married,” a term for martyred.

Homegrown radicalization became a concern for Canada when Mohamed Jabarah of St. Catharines was arrested in 2002 after he joined al-Qaeda and attempted to bomb the U.S. embassy in Singapore. In 2004, Ottawa-born Momin Khawaja was arrested over his role in a British terror group that plotted attacks around London.

A classified 2007 CSIS study said the causes of radicalization varied but included the influence of family and charismatic spiritual leaders, overseas travel, conversion and anger at the perceived oppression of Muslims.

“Once the radicalization process has begun, individuals start to find diverse ways to develop their extremist beliefs in Canada,” the study says. “They do so through a variety of networks, both real and virtual.

“These individuals appear to be part of Western society,” it adds. “In fact, they appear so Canadian that they are difficult to detect. Such individuals then move on to a series of radical activities, ranging from propaganda and recruiting, to terrorist training and participation in extremist operations.”

A recent report by the Demos research group, co-authored by Mr. King and funded partly by Canada, found that the terrorists had experienced social exclusion, felt disconnected from their community, had undergone some kind of identity crisis and had a relatively shallow understanding of the Islamic religion.

An increasing part of al-Qaeda’s appeal in the West is its “dangerous, romantic and counter-cultural characteristics,” the paper said, adding it was crucial to de-glamorize al-Qaeda by highlighting its obvious flaws and even satirizing it.

“There’s a sensation-seeking component to it,” said Mr. King, a psychologist. “I mean how cool is it to go with some other guys and have secret messages, try and acquire some illegal materials for a cause that is portrayed as ultimate justice,” he said.

He said terrorist groups are doing a good job of marketing their cause to large numbers on the Internet. Through luck and timing, some are responding to that messaging, although the overall numbers remain relatively small.

“It’s a real combination of factors. They’re meeting the wrong people at the wrong time, there’s nothing else in their life probably that they feel is more important that would keep them back from doing this. And they’re guys that really enjoy doing stuff that’s high intensity.”

National Post

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