The Mountie in charge of investigating terrorist threats says he’s alarmed at the growing number of Canadians adopting violent jihad.
Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said RCMP are aware of a number of Canadians who are currently training at Islamic terror camps.
“We have some in Pakistan, we see some in Somalia, we see them in Afghanistan,” he said.
RCMP believe that two-dozen Canadians have trained at camps in Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan (the same country where the Times Square bomber is believed to have sought instruction in terrorist tactics). They suspect that several Canadians hold leadership roles in al Qaeda-linked groups.
The Mounties are investigating at least six young Somali-Canadian men from the Toronto area who are believed to have left the country to join al Shabaab, the Somalia-based group responsible for last week’s suicide bombings in Uganda that killed 76 people.
But Michaud is also concerned about the threat of Islamic extremists unleashing terror on Canadian soil, particularly if those trained at terrorist camps overseas return to Canada.
There are those in Canada who are fundraising for terrorist groups “through charities, drug dealing and credit card fraud,” he said.
What’s more, threats from “neo-jihadist groups” are no longer limited to major Canadian cities, he said — they now affect smaller communities across the country.
Many of the suspected terrorists being investigated by RCMP are second or third generation Canadians who have been integrated into Canadian society before becoming radicalised, Michaud said.
RCMP have even set up a national security tip line, at 1-800-420-5805, where concerned citizens can report suspicious behaviour 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But some Islamic groups say the Mounties are exaggerating the threat.
“I don’t get the sense it is a huge problem within the Muslim community,” said Khalid Elgazzar with the Council of American-Islamic Relations Canada. “I would say these are isolated incidents.”
Many of CAIR’s leaders are isolated too – in jail cells after being convicted on terrorism related charges.