Radicalization: A Canadian Persepective

Is Radicalization Forever?
What Are We Doing About It?
Terrorism Here vs. Terrorism There: Do We Have to Choose?
Radicalization is a critical subset of the terrorist threat.
The RCMP defines radicalization as the process by which individuals — usually young people — are
introduced to an overtly ideological message and belief system that encourages movement from moderate, mainstream beliefs towards extreme views. While radical thinking is by no means problematic in itself, it becomes a threat to national security when Canadian citizens or residents espouse or engage in violence or direct action as a means of promoting political, ideological or religious extremism.
Sometimes referred to as “homegrown terrorism,” this process of radicalization is more correctly
referred to as domestic radicalization leading to terrorist violence.
The nuances of this definition are critical. The English word “radical” comes from
the Latin radis, or “root.” Its connotation (as in the word “radish”) is of being buried
in the ground, rooted, fundamental. So a radical is a person who wishes to effect
fundamental political, economic or social change, or change from the ground up.

Is Radicalization Bad?
As stated in the RCMP definition, radical thinking is not necessarily problematic.
Most progress has been an outcome of some form of radicalization and the mindset
that accompanies it. Martin Luther King was considered a radical, as were a host of
other people that we now view as important and entirely legitimate historical figures,
from Moses, Mohammed and Jesus to Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Gloria Steinem.
In some cases, even violent radicals have later been deemed to be acting in the name
of causes that were just. John Brown, the 19th century American abolitionist is an
example of such an individual.
All of us have views and opinions that others would define as radical, if not extreme.
Radical thought and action does not necessarily translate into terrorism. In fact,
radicals can play a highly positive role, both in their communities and in the larger
political context (although admittedly this role is often only acknowledged after the
fact). Again, radical views only become a problem when they are used to promote or
condone violence or other forms of extremist behavior, including terrorism.

What is Radicalization?
In a contemporary context, radicalization is most often discussed with reference to
young Muslims who are influenced, to one degree or another, by Islamist thought.
Islamism (the practical application of Islamist thought), a term that is NOT a
synonym for Islam, is a set of ideologies that holds that Islam is not simply a religion,
but also a political system. This system is exemplified by the various Caliphates —
political dynasties that combined political with religious hegemony — that ruled
the medieval Islamic world. The basic tenets of Islamist thought hold that modern
Islam must return to its historic and theological roots, that this “proto-Islam” must
become a political unifying factor for Muslims the world over, and that a truly
Islamic society must be governed by law derived from traditional Islamic sources.
There are many different proponents of Islamism, and many different schools of
Islamist thought. Many of these, like the Muslim Brotherhood, are not terrorists,
nor do they necessarily advocate violence (although Hamas, among others, has
its ideological roots in the teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood and some senior
al Qaeda associates are linked to it). By far the best known and most problematic
Islamist group, however, is al Qaeda and all of the groups and individuals that are
associated with it. Moreover, most recent radicalization leading to terrorism in
Canada, in the United States, in Europe and elsewhere has been driven by al Qaeda,
its ideology, or by groups or individuals who are either associated with or influenced
by al Qaeda.
Public awareness of radicalization in Canada has largely been determined by the
events and personalities associated with the “Toronto 18” and Momin Khawaja cases.
In this country, radicalization that is rooted in Islamist ideology is a relatively recent
phenomenon, however. Radicalization has always been a part of socio-political reality,
even in Canada. It has spanned not only the entire “left-right” political spectrum,
from environmental and animal rights activists to neo-Nazis, but a range of ethnic
and religious interests as well. From a Canadian perspective, the actions of the FLQ
and the “Squamish Five,” and the Air India bombing embody the kind of extremist
“direct action” that can lie at the end of the radicalization process.
Radicalization can occur due to a multitude of factors and influences. There is no
single group that seeks out vulnerable and impressionable young people. Nor is
radicalization limited to any single ethnic or interest group. Historically, violent
factions of various political ideologies have employed similar recruiting strategies
and targeted similar demographics.
The life stories and experiences of a range of historical characters from many different
cultures can be understood as manifestations of not only radicalization, but also the
violence that can lie at the end of the radicalization continuum. These include Vladimir
Lenin, whose single-minded pursuit of revolution was driven, in large measure, by
the execution of his beloved older brother, a revolutionary, by Tsarist authorities;
Ernesto “Che” Guevara whose radical, and ultimately violent extremist worldview
originated in his experiences as a young doctor working in South American leper

Radicalization: A Muslim Thing?
colonies; and even Jesse James, whose rampage of banditry
and terrorism across the American Midwest was a largely a
continuation of the Civil War by other means.
Nevertheless, domestic radicalization associated with
violent Islamist extremist ideology is a particular concern
for law enforcement and security agencies. Virtually all of
the planned or actual terrorist attacks in Western Europe
and North America since 9/11 have been carried out by
young Muslims. Whatever their national and cultural
origins, most were either native-born citizens or long-term
residents of the countries they were attacking and most had
undergone an identifiable process of radicalization. These
attacks include the Theo Van Gogh killing and the “Hofstad
Plot” in the Netherlands; the Madrid bombings; the 7/7
bombings and their aftermath, Operation OVERT (the socalled
“Heathrow Plot”), the 2007 firebombing of Glasgow
Airport and failed terrorist attacks in Central London; and,
of course, the “Toronto 18” and Khawaja cases in Canada.
The extent of radicalization in contemporary Canada is difficult to determine,
particularly with regard to radicalization associated with Islamist terrorism.
Relatively few academic studies address the problem, although research currently
being conducted in Canada by the UK-based DEMOS think tank may help to scope
the problem. Law enforcement and security agencies — the most ready source of
statistical data — only investigate individuals who are already radicalized to the
extent that they are committing or are about to commit criminal offences. Therefore,
law enforcement and security datasets may be inherently biased and not reflective of
society at large.
Other data sources — both quantitative and qualitative — do shed limited light
on the issue however. For example, in a 2006 ENVIRONICS poll of Muslim
Canadians, 12% of respondents either somewhat or fully supported the goals of the
alleged “Toronto 18” terrorist cell. While this does not necessarily signify that 12%
(or 100,000) of the overall Canadian Muslim community has either been radicalized
or is sympathetic with radical ideology, it is consistent with similar polls carried out
in other Western nations. At the same time, it is important to remember that this
poll was carried out in haste, without a meaningful control sample, and in a highly
charged political and emotional environment.
CSIS, meanwhile, has stated publicly that it is monitoring “several hundred” national
security-related subjects of interest (among whom are radicalized individuals). The
UK Security Service (MI5) has noted publicly that it has identified about 2,000 such
From all of this, it is possible to hypothesize that the radicalization problem is bigger
than current investigations show. So too, both the “Toronto 18” and Khawaja cases
also serve as indicators that radicalization is very much a Canadian reality and that
it has the potential to culminate in violence. The development of meaningful public
policy aimed at addressing radicalization will require not only proper metrics, but
also understanding and knowledge of at-risk communities and the pressures and
dynamics at work within them.

Radicalization in Canada
Academics and security experts have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to
identify a radical typology and to determine what drives people — especially young
people — down the road of radicalization towards terrorism.
Poverty and alienation are popular explanations, but they do not stand up to scrutiny.
Domestically-radicalized terrorists do not necessarily exist at the margins of society.
For example, all of the eight suspects in the botched June 2007 terrorist attacks in
London and at Glasgow’s international airport were professionals: physicians, medical
research scientists and an engineer. All were residents of the United Kingdom.
Moreover, the recent past has shown that many dangerous extremists spring from
the ranks of the privileged middle and upper-middle classes. The Hamburg Cell that
formed the hard core of the 9/11 conspiracy were all enrolled at German universities;
Osama bin Laden has an engineering background; his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri,
is a paediatrician.
This is a historical trend as well: Ulrike Meinhoff, founder and chief ideologue of
the German Red Army Faction was a highly educated journalist; George Habash,
founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (and a Christian, not a
Muslim) was a physician, as was Che Guevara. Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and
the rest of the Bolshevik inner circle (with the exception of Josef Stalin) were all welleducated
and well-traveled and were extremely sophisticated thinkers.
In the police and security community, we have a tendency to assume that deprivation
and alienation are effective predictors of the kind of radicalization that can lead to
extremist action. Consequently, we tend to focus attention and resources on the
young and on the “underclass.” Mature and well-educated individuals are likely
to be receptive to much more sophisticated radical messaging than their younger
counterparts, however.. More importantly, they have both the intellectual and
emotional wherewithal to translate this into meaningful direct action and to take on
leadership roles within terrorist cells.
Another popular explanation for the kind of radicalization that leads to terrorism
is rooted in the failure of concepts like multiculturalism and integration. This
explanation assumes that a group at particularly high risk of crossing the line into
terrorist activities is the children of immigrants who find themselves both trapped
and marginalized by the conflict between the traditional world of their parents and
the often confusing and contradictory cultural messages of modern western society.
While there is some merit to this argument, it also describes a classic immigrant
dilemma which rarely translates into terrorist activity. The assumption that
domestically radicalized terrorists are somehow “different” is belied by the “Toronto
18” trial. The media repeatedly draw attention to the “ordinariness” of the defendants.
This is borne out by the wiretap recordings being played in court, in which defendants
communicate in a sort of “hoser-gangsta” patois, talk about how much they love Tim
Horton’s doughnuts, and exclaim over the wintertime beauty of rural Ontario.

Radicals into Terrorists: Who?
There is a parallel here with the European experience, in which native-born individuals who become radicalized to the point of undertaking terrorist activity are often not superficially different from their peers. For example, in their “martyrdom statements” the North of England accents of the 7/7 bombers make them sound like the Beatles. Moreover, all of the 7/7 bombers had reasonably good educations and meaningful jobs and all regularly crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries in their daily lives. The Glasgow Airport bombers were successful professionals, apparently well-placed in British society. As above, if there
is a common factor at play, it is the number of radicals
and extremists who emerge from socio-economic classes
that, superficially, are most invested in the status quo. If
the American Revolution was led by some of the most
prominent citizens of the Thirteen Colonies, it should not be
surprising that young people who have benefited most from
what Canada has to offer might take up radical causes.
“Ordinariness” is a key factor in the domestic radicalization
phenomenon. It is what permits apparently integrated,
apparently nondescript individuals to become radicalized
to the point that they cross the terrorist line, and then
to plan and carry out terrorist acts, unnoticed until it is
too late. There is no reason that Canadian born terrorists
would not like Tim Horton’s doughnuts. It would be more
surprising if they did not. This duality represents a serious
challenge for law enforcement and security agencies that
must address and — particularly — anticipate the problem
of radicalization.
The other part of this problem is that the very ordinariness of
Canadian-born terrorist suspects actually works against the
law enforcement and security community when it sets out
to educate the public about the problem of radicalization.
The fact that young people like the “Toronto 18” defendants
are so utterly rooted in Canadian youth culture and the
minutiae of daily life in Canada seems to imply that they
could not possibly be either aspiring or active terrorists.
Taken to its logical extent, this perception can imply that
the case itself is not a viable criminal prosecution but rather
the organized persecution of a group of hapless teenaged

Radicals into Terrorists: Why?
While concepts like “alienation” are not completely irrelevant to the problem, they
are not always useful in trying to anticipate or address the problem of radicalization.
Ultimately, largely immeasurable social, political and religious motivations may
trump mere citizenship. Radicalization remains a phenomenon that is difficult to
predict, with little associated typology. Pre-radicalization indicators — if they exist,
or are detectable — are often extraordinarily subtle, particularly to a cultural outsider
like a police or intelligence officer.
Nevertheless, a look back at some domestic and global examples does identify what
seem to be a few common factors, at least in the transformation of young Canadian
Muslims into extremists. Family ties, for example, can be critical. Ahmed Said Khadr,
father of Omar, inculcated all of his children with Islamist ideology and ensured that
they received training in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. He also encouraged at
least one of them to become a suicide bomber.
The role of family ties can be extended to include a whole range of social networks.
Four of the eight accused in Operation Overt lived in the same East London
neighbourhood, and the “Toronto 18” conspirators were connected through school
and a number of neighbourhood networks. Similarities in background, age and
outlook in social and peer group networks of this type often create a synergy that
can accelerate the radicalization process, encouraging people to adopt attitudes or to
take action as a group that they might not consider as individuals.
Spiritual leaders and mentors with extremist views can also wield a great deal of
influence, particularly over young people. Aly Hindy, imam of the Salaheddin
Islamic Centre in Toronto, has served as a focal point for Toronto area Islamic
radicals, notably the Khadr family and members of the “Toronto 18” conspiracy.
Similarly, some converts may find their way to a radical interpretation of Islam due
to the influence of an extremist leader or mentor. At least one convert was involved
in the “Toronto 18” case. Germaine Lindsay, a Jamaican born convert to Islam was
one of the conspirators in the 7/7 bombings in London and Jason (Jamal) Walters, a
Dutch-American convert, was a member of the Hofstad Group in the Netherlands.
Travel to “hot zones” is another important factor. A number of Canadian-born
extremists have travelled and studied for extensive periods in Saudi Arabia where
they have been exposed to Islamist ideology in mosques and theological institutions.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are also critical, particularly when sojourns in terrorist
training camps or participation in actual combat operations are involved. John
Walker Lindh, better known as “the American Taliban” was a convert who had
studied in radical madrassas (Islamic seminaries) in Yemen and in Pakistan before
joining Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Similarly, Momin Khawaja spent time in
Pakistan while the Khadr brothers cycled through both training camps and Taliban
combat operations.

Geopolitical factors — particularly the perceived suffering of the Ummah (global community of Muslims) at the hands of the West — are also critical drivers pushing individuals into extremist thought, if not action. The message that the world is fundamentally “at war” with Islam is key to the Islamist “single narrative” — or “one size fits all explanation” — that drives terrorism the world over. This narrative is reinforced by current events — such as theIsrael / Palestine issue and the conflict in Afghanistan —which characterize the embattled Muslim communities as small but stalwart Davids beset by a lumbering and brutal Goliath. The romance of this unequal struggle may be especially appealing to young Muslims, who feel both
justified and compelled to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters against the powerful forces arrayed against them.
Many ethnic, cultural and religious constituencies in Canada remain deeply concerned about “homeland” issues. Indeed, continued identification with communities and countries of origin remains a component of the Canadian approach to multiculturalism. The Islamist “single narrative” — propagated by Islamist ideologues of every stripe, from Osama Bin Laden to street corner preachers —is fundamentally different however. Not only does it lie at the heart of the Islamist extremist worldview, it also identifies Canada as part of the problem. Key threads in the narrative include Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan, its close alliance with both the United States and the United Kingdom and its support of the State of Israel. And Osama
Bin Laden and other Islamist ideologues have repeatedly identified Canada as one of the “Crusader nations” that is bent on attacking and destroying Islam.
When combined with purely personal or localized grievances, the “single narrative” provides individuals not
only with a means of explaining the world but — just as importantly — with a sense of personal meaning and a
cause for which to fight. This combination of worldview and self-justification appears to have driven the “Toronto 18” conspirators. It also was also the determining influence over Momin Khawaja who, after a wholly uneventful childhood and adolescence in suburban Ottawa, became convinced in his early 20s that the United States and its allies were responsible for the devastation of the Muslim world.

There is a tendency in the media to portray conversion to Islam as a sort of “fast
track” to terrorist action. However, Islam is one of the fastest growing faiths in the
world. An estimated 25 per cent of American Muslims are converts and anywhere
from 10,000 to 20,000 people convert to Islam each year in the United Kingdom.
Most converts to Islam are simply that — average people who have found that Islam
speaks to them as a faith.
Nevertheless, converts are a constant in Islamist terrorist plots. About half of the
subjects involved in disrupted plots in the United States are converts. Internationally,
a number of Islamic leaders have expressed concerns around the susceptibility of the
convert community to radicalization, noting that the experience of conversion can
create an emotional state that is easy for radicalization agents to manipulate. The life
stories of individuals like Germaine Lindsay, Jamal Walters and John Walker Lindh
(above) seem to bear this out. Conversion is not necessarily a precursor to extremism,
but it cannot be ruled out as a contributing factor in the development of extremist
thinking. Similarly, mosques are often portrayed as hotbeds of ideological proselytizing. This is
true in some cases: the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Toronto and London’s Finsbury Park Mosque (once colourfully referred to as “the suicide factory”) are obvious examples. Most mosques are like churches and synagogues however, and run by the congregation and their representatives. Imams are dependent upon the goodwill of those congregations for their living. Therefore, even in theologically conservative
mosques, extremists and those who otherwise diverge from a fairly narrow definition
of what is acceptable tend to get weeded out or ignored.
The real problem may in fact be what is NOT going on or being discussed in the
Mosques, particularly with regard to some of the existential and geopolitical issues
related to Islam in the larger world. Without clearly delineated guidance around
theologically or ideologically acceptable responses to these issues, curious or
concerned young people frustrated by lack of answers in legitimate cultural and
faith institutions may go looking for those answers elsewhere. It is at this point that
they are at risk of being drawn into a “secret world” that is extraordinarily difficult
for police and security officials to penetrate. It is in that secret world — increasingly
facilitated by the Internet — that they meet the charismatics, the ideologues and the
extremists, and where the single narrative becomes all-consuming.

Sensitive Communities
1. The Internet
The American writer Gertrude Stein once observed of her hometown, Oakland,
California, that “there is no there, there.” This effectively describes not only the
Internet, but many terrorist organizations as well. As “networks of networks” with
no clearly identifiable center, terrorist groups and the Internet serve as metaphors for
each other.
The Internet remains an important terrorist tool, not just for al Qaeda, but for a
whole range of extremist organizations which, again, are less often groups than loose
associations of networks, in many cases spread across the globe. Without “physical”
command and control capacity, terrorist groups must rely on the Internet to raise
funds; to plot strategy and tactics; and, perhaps most importantly, to recruit,
propagandize and mobilize adherents.
Few individuals have been known to complete the radicalization process via the
Internet. Nevertheless, the Internet serves as a highly effective threshold for
radicalization, particularly for building the kinds of personal contacts and networks
that facilitate the radicalization process. Indeed, the very nature of the Internet
makes it an ideal venue for recruitment. It is easily accessible and difficult to monitor
and control. It permits speedy and anonymous communications with large numbers
of people. And the Internet possesses an immediacy that allows disparate people in
different parts of world to come together in an intimate space and to engage in a free
(and initially anonymous) exchange of views and ideas.
Immediacy and intimacy is coupled with the ability of specific websites to combine
words, images, video footage, sounds and music in a carefully controlled environment.
The combination is highly manipulative and, ultimately, far more effective than a
single proselytizer, in the same way that an audience will respond more readily to a
clever or imaginative commercial than it will to even the best salesman.
Al Qaeda is by no means the only terrorist group using the Internet. Virtually every
known terrorist organization has some sort of Web presence. This includes not only
well-known Middle East-based groups like Hamas and Hizbollah, but also European
entities like ETA and the Irish Republican Army; Sendero Luminoso and the Tupac
Amaru Revolutionary Movement in Latin America; the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam and the Lashkar-e-Taiba in South Asia; and Aum Shinrikio and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front in East and Southeast Asia.
Young people are the most receptive audience for extremist messaging over the web.
Not only has their intellectual framework largely been shaped by their interaction
with the Internet, but they are often struggling with fundamental questions around
faith, the future and their place in the world. What extremists are often able to
do, is to link such experiences to a culture of embattlement and victimhood; the
identification of “enemies”; and the suffering and humiliation of specific ethnic or
New Challenges religious groups — be they Muslim, Basque, Tamil or Irish Catholic — at the hands of those enemies. This culture of embattlement and victimhood is what lies at the heart of
the “single narrative” discussed above.
Many specifically Islamist websites capture their audience by initially addressing core existential issues: “What does it mean to be a Muslim in today’s world?”; “What is my place in the ummah — the larger global community of Muslims?” Once the audience has been “hooked” by these broader questions around Islamic identity and the meaning of a life in Islam, a more overt process of indoctrination
In the Islamist Internet world, such indoctrination is generally built around the “single narrative” that emphasizes specifically “Islamic” problems. These problems are rooted in perceived threats posed by common enemies, such as Israel or “Crusader nations” (the United States and its allies)and the suffering and humiliation of Muslims at the hands of these enemies. When this narrative with its themes of
embattlement, persecution and martyrdom is conveyed in combination with images and references that are rooted in youth culture, it has tremendous resonance among young people, particularly young people who are searching for a cause to define their place in the world.
2. Women
Historically, a great deal of ambiguity has surrounded the role of women in the overall Islamist extremist narrative. Portrayal of women as fighters in extremist propaganda is often intended less to encourage women than it is to shame Muslim men who remain on the sidelines of the struggle.
Nevertheless, Islamist extremist groups seem increasingly willing to embrace and include women. Hamas, Hizballah and a number of other organizations increasingly portray women as both fierce and articulate, belying Western stereotypes of Muslim women. Al Qaeda publishes an online women’s magazine intended to recruit female fighters and martyrs. Other materials targeting women, especially on the Internet, emphasize their role in terrorist operations and provide specific instruction in a range of practical subjects
from small arms and explosives to battlefield medicine.
Increasing numbers of suicide attacks — whether in Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan and Kashmir — involve women,
and women have been actively involved in Chechen terrorist operations like the Moscow Theatre siege and the
Beslan school massacre. This suggests that the traditionalconstraints on women taking part in direct terrorist action are beginning to erode, perhaps indicating a willingness on the part of al Qaeda and its affiliates to take terrorist operations to a new level, utilizing a much broader constituency than in the past. Islamist terrorist activity has primarily been a male preserve, at least at the “sharp end.”
For this reason, women — and particularly women who are not overtly “Muslim” in appearance — could be significant “stealth” assets in terrorist operations. For example, Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert, travelled to Iraq in 2005 and died in a suicide attack on a US military patrol.
Women are also lending their voices to the Islamist ideological message, often employing a strange inversion
of the language of struggle and emancipation. In 2005, Shabina Begum, a British teenager who won a court
decision allowing her to wear jilbab (full length outer garment) over her school uniform observed that “Muslim women, from Uzbekistan to Turkey, are feeling the brunt of policies guided by Western governments … young Muslims, like me, have turned back to their faith after years of being taught that we needed to be liberated from it.”

Other vulnerabilities and vectors for radicalization include the global development of linkages between the politicalleft wing (“reds”) and Islamist extremists (“greens”).The unifying factor is, to a large extent, opposition to globalization, capitalism and US foreign and security policy,coupled with anti-Israel sentiment and admiration for the purported social activist component of terrorist groups like
Hamas and Hizballah. This seemingly counterintuitive discovery of common cause is allowing Islamist groups to cloak themselves in the rhetoric of liberation for oppressed peoples and, more importantly, to participate actively in the broader spectrum of western politics.
While primarily a European issue, manifestations of this “red-green coalition” have surfaced in Canada, most
notably at the level of student politics. Concordia University has been repeatedly forced to cancel debate on the Israel- Palestine issue after demonstrations and threats of violence by Muslim and left wing student groups who do not want their views challenged. While this is relatively removed from the mainstream, it is still a fundamental abrogation of constitutional guarantees regarding free speech and
Extremes of radical thought and action are not necessarily an end state. There
are numerous examples of radicals, extremist thinkers and terrorists who have
constructively re-integrated themselves into legitimate politics and society.
Between the 1970s and the late 1980s, the 19th of April Movement, or M-19, was the
largest guerrilla group in Colombia after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
or FARC. M-19 carried out a series of spectacular terrorist attacks, including a mass
hostage-taking of foreign diplomats in 1980 and an armed assault on the Colombian
justice ministry in 1985. In the course of a series of negotiations with the Colombian
government, the M-19 leadership and most of its fighters repudiated violence and
expressed their desire to change society through participation in legitimate politics.
This was more than simple pragmatism. Under the rubric of the M-19 Democratic
Alliance, the group became a powerful force in Colombian politics, helped to forge a
meaningful Colombian constitution, and assumed the presidency of the Colombian
Constituent Assembly. The M-19 Democratic Alliance continues to be influential
in various Colombian political coalitions and is a meaningful component of the
Colombian political process.
Closer to home, US president Barack Obama’s entry into electoral politics was an
unsuccessful 2000 run for Congress against Bobby Rush, a Chicago political fixture,
a Democratic party stalwart, and a highly respected eight-term Congressman. Rush’s
career trajectory is fascinating. After serving in the Army, he attended college where
he joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights
organization. From the SNCC, he moved to the Black Panther Party and was a
founder of its Illinois branch. He ran Black Panther meal programs and free medical
clinics in Chicago and was instrumental in forcing the larger medical and research
communities to acknowledge the impact of sickle cell anemia on American black
The stories of M-19 and Bobby Rush, while fundamentally different on a number of
levels, demonstrate that our understanding of “radicalization” needs to be far more
nuanced than it currently is. Again, radical thought does not necessarily translate
into terrorism. Radicals can play a highly positive role, both in their communities
and in the larger political context. Most importantly, radicalism exists on a sort
of sliding continuum and some radicals, even some extremists, may be persuaded
to channel their energy and their passion into legitimate politics. The trick, from a
security perspective, lies in understanding the different manifestations of the issue
and knowing which ones represent a threat and which an opportunity.
A number of countries — including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Singapore,
Indonesia and Malaysia — are using “de-radicalization” programs as a means of
demobilizing violent extremists and their supporters. Most of these de-radicalization
programs have been influenced, in part, by the large body of work on de-radicalization
and re-integration of former terrorists that has been carried out in Saudi Arabia.
Is Radicalization Forever?
RCMP NSCI — “Radicalization — A Guide for t 14 he Perplexed — June 2009”
Unclassified The Saudi de-radicalization program is rooted in the
recognition that violent Islamist extremism cannot be
defeated by traditional security means alone. Equally
essential is discrediting its intellectual roots and defeating
the ideological mindset that supports and nurtures political
violence. Convicted extremists (a number of whom are
Guantanamo returnees) that Saudi authorities judge to
be redeemable are subjected to intensive counseling by
religious scholars who focus on imparting an understanding
of Islamic doctrine around political change and the various
nuances of jihad, or struggle. This is coupled with intensive
societal re-integration programs, family support and
continuing monitoring and post-release aftercare. To date,
around 3,000 prisoners have participated in Saudi Arabia’s
de-radicalization program. Saudi authorities claim a
rehabilitation success rate of 80 to 90 per cent, and have rearrested
only 35 individuals for security-related offenses.
The societies and cultures in which such programs have
enjoyed (alleged) success are very different from Canada.
All practice capital punishment and virtually all of them
have been identified as states that routinely use torture
as an investigative / interrogation tool. The Saudi deradicalization
program does not resort to torture and is
intended partly to counteract the repressive image of the
Saudi security services. Nevertheless, implied physical
threats may in fact be as influential as de-radicalization
programming in persuading extremists to recant.
Saudi authorities are extremely open in admitting that
the first priority of their de-radicalization program is the
internal security of the Kingdom. They also recognize,
however, that if “rehabilitated” terrorists leave the Kingdom
and engage in terrorist activities elsewhere, then there will
be real consequences for the Kingdom in terms of bleedback
and internal and regional stability. It is at precisely this
point that Western and Saudi interests converge. This
convergence was thrown into sharp relief by the case of Said
Ali al-Shihri, an alumnus of both Guantanamo Bay and
the Saudi de-radicalization program, who has emerged as
the deputy leader of al Qaeda in Yemen and is implicated in
the September 2008 bombing of the US Embassy in Sana.
The nominal success of the Saudi program, and the
tremendous number of resources that the Saudi government
continues to pour into it, at least suggests that counterradicalization
programming (if not “de-radicalization”)
in the Islamist terrorist context is more than simply a
pipe dream. It is also clear from the Saudi experience
that successful de-radicalization programming must be
based upon meaningful understanding of the ideological
and theological foundations of extremist thought. Just as
importantly, it must be delivered in a way that is entirely
culturally appropriate. From a Western perspective, this
means that any form of de-radicalization must be delivered,
not by the police, the security services, or any other “official”
agency, but rather by affected communities themselves.

What Are We Doing About It?
Radicalization is a tremendously complex issue, with an array of political and
social implications, not only globally, but for Canada as well. There are a number
of mitigating factors at play, however that combine to make the nature of the
radicalization threat different than it is in, say, Europe or the United Kingdom.
Canada is a pluralist society whose approach to immigration is rooted in
multiculturalism. Historically, minorities and new arrivals in Canada are able to
integrate readily without giving up core religious or cultural practices and beliefs.
Equality of economic opportunity is both a principle and a reality of Canadian life.
And Canadian immigration policy has helped to build minority communities that
are well-educated and highly functioning by most social and economic measures.
This means that the task facing Canadian law enforcement, in parallel with other
government initiatives, is not to counter radical messaging that is entrenched in
specific communities. Instead, it is to help to build communities that are resilient
to radicalization that could lead to terrorist violence through effective support and
prevention programming.
Over the past few months, NSCI has worked closely with a working group consisting
of a number of other Canadian police agencies, CSIS, DFAIT and Public Safety in
preparing a radicalization prevention strategy for the entire Canadian law enforcement
community, under the auspices of CACP Counterterrorism and National Security
(CTNS) Committee. An initial position paper / business case was accepted by the
CTNS Committee in August 2008. Over the fall and winter the working group
will proceed by identifying a whole range of best practices related to radicalization
and radicalization prevention, both within the RCMP and other agencies, and then
standardizing them across the community.
The working group has spent a great deal of time looking at counter-radicalization
models in other countries and its members feel confident that Canada is ahead of the
radicalization wave, that we can learn from the cases that have already occurred and
build that learning into an effective prevention strategy. As above however, proper
metrics and meaningful insights into at-risk communities are essential first steps.

Two of the leading US theorists on terrorism — Bruce Hoffman and Marc
Sageman — recently engaged in a highly public debate over the nature of the threat
from al Qaeda. In his latest book, Leaderless Jihad, Sageman contends that al Qaeda
is largely a spent force. He says that the real terrorist threat lies with radicalized
individuals and small groups who meet and plot in their own neighborhoods or
on the Internet. Hoffman, a respected Georgetown University historian, rebutted
Sageman in a review article in Foreign Affairs, citing a recent US National Intelligence
Estimate warning that “al Qaeda Central” is reconstituting itself in Pakistan.
Sageman’s argument is rooted in the concept of domestic radicalization. If he is correct
and the real terrorist threat is a domestic one, then the appropriate response lies with
good intelligence and law enforcement and effective prosecutions. If Hoffman is
right, and a monolithic al Qaeda remains a global threat, then the obvious response
is rooted in military and foreign intelligence operations, and in foreign policy.
The problem is that both Sageman and Hoffman are right (or wrong, depending
upon one’s perception). There are many credible indicators that al Qaeda has indeed
successfully reconstituted itself in the security of the Tribal Areas of Western
Pakistan and that it is playing a role in, among other things, the Taliban insurgency
in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda-related and inspired entities are active in Iraq and North
and East Africa and the organization itself serves as a beacon to violent extremists all
over the globe. So whatever the actual role of al Qaeda Central, the very fact of its
continued existence represents a multi-layered threat.
Meanwhile, it is clear that domestic radicalization leading to terrorism continues to be
a serious threat, and one that is quite possibly accelerating. The two threats actually
complement each other — al Qaeda messaging plays a key role in radicalization,
while domestically radicalized individuals (like the 7/7 bombers) often cycle through
al Qaeda-run training camps. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to know where one
threat ends and the other begins.
While an “either / or” scenario is tempting, choosing one alternative over the other
will almost certainly lead back to the misperceptions of the 1990s — mistakes which
resulted not only in 9/11, but also in the Madrid bombings, the Theo Van Gogh
killing and the 7/7 bombings, among other things. A blended approach (which
supports and includes important initiatives like the CACP / RCMP-led counterradicalization
study) is undoubtedly still the best one.
Terrorism Here vs. Terrorism There: Do We Have to Choose?

Sources and Selected Readings
Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. Modern Library, 2002.
Buruma, Ian. Murder in Amsterdam. Liberal Europe, Islam and the Limits of Tolerance. Penguin, 2006.
Boucek, Christopher. Saudi Arabia’s “Soft” Counterterrorism Strategy: Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Aftercare. Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. Middle East Program (Carnegie Papers, No. 97, September 2008).
Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Radicalization Study Group. Building Community Resilience to Violent Ideologies: A Discussion Paper. 2008.
Fisk, Robert. The Great War for Civilisation. Fourth Estate, 2005.
Hoffman, Bruce. “The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism: Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters.” Foreign Affairs (May / June 2008).
International Crisis Group. “Understanding Islamism.” Middle East / North Africa Report (No. 37 – 2 March, 2005).
Lawrence, Bruce (ed.). Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Verso, 2005.
Leiken, Robert S. and Brooke, Steven. “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.” Foreign Affairs (March / April 2007).
New York Police Department. NYPD Intelligence Division. Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat (prepared by
Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt). 2007.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police. National Security Criminal Investigations. Radicalization and the Internet: Questions and
Discussion Points. 2006.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police. National Security Criminal Investigations. Words Make Worlds. 2008.
Sageman, Marc. Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century. University of Pennsylvania, 2008.
Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Knopf, 2006.

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Handbook aims to prevent radicalization of Canadian Muslims


Local Islamic groups and the RCMP have released a handbook aimed at curbing the radicalization of Canadian Muslims.

The 37-page handbook — created by the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA), the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and RCMP — details how Canadians can challenge the extremist messages of violence communicated across the country by terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS.

It presents advice on how parents and schools can work together to watch for the “red flags” from youths being swept up in radicalization before it’s too late.

The handbook, titled United Against Terrorism: A Collaborative Effort Towards a Secure, Inclusive and Just Canada, was presented at the Winnipeg Central Mosque.

united against terrorism

It’s a joint effort between Islamic Social Services, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the RCMP.

The handbook is already resonating with some Muslim parents.

Winnipegger Imran Rahman, who has four children, said it could help him and other parents see warning signs.

“We need to have our kids understand what the truth about Islam is, first of all, so that they have a basic understanding about what is radical and what is supposed to be the real Islam,” he said.

The message also hit home in Manitoba, where two former University of Manitoba students are still wanted on terrorism charges and are suspected of being involved in a 2009 plot to blow up subways in New York.

Terror charges laid against former Winnipeggers
Siddiqui said the book will arm Canadian parents and their children against militant groups that use the Muslim faith to justify their cause.

“Right now, it’s war on them,” she said. “And we are not going to remain quiet. Enough is enough. They are not going to exploit our faith. They cannot blame our faith. They cannot use our faith.”

But she admits the handbook has its limitations: only 100 copies are being printed owing to lack of money, though it is available online (see below).

And Rahman acknowledged it won’t be enough to fight the lure of extremists in faraway lands.

“We need to definitely do more in terms of getting the message out,” he said.

Handbook aimed at young Muslims

The introduction in the handbook explains why its authors feel it’s necessary.

“Muslim extremists twist, abuse and misrepresent Quranic verses and the Prophetic traditions to support, justify and rationalize their hateful messages of violence and terrorism,” it says.

The 38-page handbook is directed mainly at Muslims. In a section about citizenship, the book asks what Islam requires from Muslim citizens in a non-Muslim country.

Collin Gordon
Collin Gordon of Calgary was a student at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. He and his brother Gregory, who are recent converts to Islam, were recruited out of the Muslim community in Calgary to join ISIS. (ISIS)

The text stresses the duty to follow the law of the land.

“The underlying and overriding principle of Islamic Law is that Muslims must obey the law of the land they live in, regardless of whether this land is majority Muslim or non-Muslim.”

The book discusses a wide range of questions Muslims might have, for instance, “How do you ‘engage’ with extremists versus ‘challenge’ extremists?”

It counsels readers to ask senior members of the community.

“It is best if you are a youth or someone who is not very knowledgeable about Islam to seek help from an elder or an imam to confront an extremist and to challenge them. Your best option when accosted by an extremist, racist, ignorant and hatemonger is to say ‘salaam’ and walk away expressing your abhorrence, and report them to your elders,” the handbook says.

One section addresses young people who join militant groups in other countries: “What is wrong with Canadian youth going overseas to fight with fellow Muslims against dictators?”

The booklet points out that many militant groups fighting governments engage in terrorism and violence themselves.

It says Canadian Muslim youth can help by lobbying politicians, raising awareness and raising money for relief efforts.

It outlines what young people should do if they are approached by members of CSIS or the RCMP, how to respond to workplace discrimination, or what they should do if they are called a terrorist.

Options range from reporting it to a superior to walking away.

There is also a section for intelligence and law enforcement officials, starting off with a warning not to equate being religious with being a radical.

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Did al-Maqdisi make a deal with the Jordanian regime?

Intelligence Analysts\Jihadica

On 16 June, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the well-known Jordanian radical Islamic ideologue, was released from prison. In the six weeks since his release, many people have argued that there must have been some sort of deal between al-Maqdisi and the Jordanian regime that caused the latter to release him. This blog post looks into these claims.

A Secret Deal
The idea that al-Maqdisi has made a secret deal with the Jordanian regime is widespread. On Twitter, for example, several people expressed their suspicion about al-Maqdisi’s release, claiming that its timing amidst the turmoil involving the Islamic State (of Iraq and Sham, IS(IS)) could not have been a coincidence. Similarly, The Economist stated that al-Maqdisi was released only after “he had been persuaded to issue two fatwas declaring followers of ISIS as ‘deviants’ and telling them not to make attacks in Jordan”. The connection between al-Maqdisi’s release and his criticism of ISIS/IS as a reason for his being set free was also pointed out in the Jordanian media. ‘Umar ‘Ayasira, for instance, a regular columnist for the Islamist daily Al-Sabil, questioned the timing of al-Maqdisi’s release. Although he explicitly denies that al-Maqdisi made a deal with the authorities, he does claim that the shaykh’s critical views on the Islamic State serve the interests of the Jordanian government, which is concerned about that organisation’s rise in Syria and Iraq and therefore supposedly allowed al-Maqdisi to leave prison.

The latter closely resembles a general scenario I also suggested once. Writing in 2008 (after al-Maqdisi was released from a previous stay in prison), I stated that “Al-Maqdisi’s criticism [...] could [...] have a moderating influence on those committed terrorists who are unlikely to be swayed by anyone else. In practice, this policy would mean allowing al-Maqdisi to spread his ideas without interfering with him too much as long as he does not materially support terrorism. The drawback of such a policy is that, while possibly helping to moderate an extremely violent fringe among jihadists, al-Maqdisi’s still radical writings might simultaneously inspire a whole generation of new terrorists. Considering the fact that the Jordanian government apparently does not have a viable case to keep al-Maqdisi in prison, however, this policy of non-interference may be less unacceptable than it sounds.”

Scenarios like these and rumours of a deal with the authorities beg the question: what is the evidence for this after al-Maqdisi’s latest release? I asked one person on Twitter who was convinced of a deal whether she had any proof of her suspicions or was simply extrapolating from other, seemingly similar cases in other contexts. Her answer was that she did not have any specific evidence at all and was simply drawing parallels with other cases that she had seen before. This is quite honest, of course, but it is typical of those who claim that al-Maqdisi made a deal with the Jordanian regime: they offer no proof whatsoever.

To be sure, a healthy dose of scepticism towards what goes on in Jordanian prisons and how this is related to the country’s politics is perhaps quite justified. This scepticism becomes slightly conspiratorial, however, if one keeps suspecting fire without even a hint of smoke. When I asked al-Maqdisi about this when I talked to him a few weeks ago, he obviously denied it, yet not by adamantly rejecting these claims; he simply shook his head in disbelief, disappointed about people’s willingness to believe such rumours. It is indeed unlikely that al-Maqdisi made a deal with the authorities, but we don’t have to take his word for it.

Criticism of ISIS/IS
One thing that most claims about al-Maqdisi’s alleged deal with the authorities mention is his criticism of ISIS/IS. Since the latter organisation may develop into a threat to Jordanian security because of the relatively large number of ISIS/IS-supporters within the kingdom, the idea is that al-Maqdisi’s release might contribute to keeping the Islamic State at bay and to moderating its adherents within Jordanian borders. Such an idea is certainly not entirely absurd and al-Maqdisi has indeed penned a few anti-IS articles since being released (see here and here) – widely reported in the Jordanian press (see here, here, here and here) – and did speak out against its supporters after the Jordanian radical thinker Iyad Qunaybi was attacked.

The problem with this reasoning, however, is that the regime does not need a deal with al-Maqdisi to get him to speak out against the Islamic State. In fact, al-Maqdisi has expressed (increasingly explicit) criticism of some jihadis in Syria and particularly ISIS since at least late 2013, long before he was released. This criticism ranged from advice to keep jihad and da’wa (missionary activities) unified (see also here), urgent calls to stop infighting among jihadis (see also here) and to refrain from engaging in fitna (chaos, strife) and clearly siding with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to a clear disavowal of ISIS. In other words, al-Maqdisi’s condemnation of ISIS was part of a gradual process of advice he gave to jihadis in Syria, which in turn was not only rooted in his broader ideology but also – and more directly – influenced by the failure to successfully mediate between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS and his perception that the latter was mostly (if not entirely) to blame for this.

Yet if there was no deal, doesn’t that make the date of al-Maqdisi’s release – right in the middle of debates about ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra – rather suspicious? Similar claims were made about al-Maqdisi’s release from prison in 1999 and 2005. With regard to the former year, it has been suggested that al-Maqdisi wrote a book in which he criticised what he considered excesses in takfir (excommunication) to get a more lenient prison sentence. As for 2005, several Jordanian journalists at the time suggested that al-Maqdisi had revised his radical views and that his 2004 and 2005 criticism of the alleged excesses committed by his former student and leader of al-Qaida in Iraq Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi played a role in his release then. Both claims are incorrect, however, as I have pointed out in detail elsewhere.

So what could explain al-Maqdisi’s release last June? Just like in 1999 (a royal pardon on the occasion of King ‘Abdallah II’s ascension to the Jordanian throne) and in 2005 (the regime acquitted him of the charges and had to release him), the immediate reason for al-Maqdisi’s release on 16 June was rather less conspiratorial than it seems: he had simply served his time in prison. Al-Maqdisi was arrested in September 2010 and was given a five year prison sentence. In Jordan, years in prison are not twelve, but only nine months long, making his sentence (5 x 9 months =) 45 months, which equals four years (48 months) minus three months. If one adds four years to September 2010 (September 2014) and subsequently subtracts three months, one simply gets to a release date in: June 2014. The fact that the Jordanian regime actually stuck to this release date instead of trying to keep al-Maqdisi in gaol a bit longer may have been inspired by the idea that al-Maqdisi might help dissuade a few more ISIS-supporters once he’s out, but it is clearly not evidence of any deal.

To deal or not to deal
All in all, it thus seems highly unlikely that al-Maqdisi has made a deal with the Jordanian regime to get released earlier. Even if the regime is willing to release a known radical scholar like him in order to allow him to fend off even more radical ideologues and militants, it is unlikely that they released him any earlier than necessary because of this. Given the fact that al-Maqdisi’s time had been served, the regime probably felt obliged to let him go, perhaps hoping that his ideological opposition against ISIS – a much more dangerous and immediate threat to Jordan than Jabhat al-Nusra, which al-Maqdisi does support – would serve them well. Whether al-Maqdisi’s freedom is actually going to contribute to greater security and stability in Jordan, however, remains to be seen.

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In the wake of all the political change in the Middle East, Islamist governments are on the rise and with them are concerns about the rights of religious minorities.


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Sunni Muslims – do you know the difference?

Kulsoom Rizvi


Politics, competition, influence and power fuel the current sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the two main branches of Islam. The root of the hostility is a political question in itself: who is the legitimate successor to the Prophet Muhammed?

Both sects share common religious beliefs: the five pillars of Islam, the Quran and Prophet Muhammed being the last messenger of God. The differences lie mostly in the Shia and Sunni interpretation of the hadiths and sharia law on how Muslims should define and govern themselves. But for the most part, the religious differences are superficial. The conflict and violence is more about political power, where geo-politics intertwines with theology.

FOR CONTEXT The Shia-Sunni divide: Tunnel vision prevails

The majority sect in this small Gulf state is Shia. However, the government is dominated by a Sunni monarchy, military and ruling elite. Shia Muslims began protesting for equality and recognition in the 1970s after the British left. The most recent large-scale protests erupted in 2011. Bahrain and its friends in Saudi Arabia retaliated by clamping down on the opposition, killing civilians.

Syrian unrest began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011. The ruling elite in this war-torn country belongs to the Alawites, a minority offshoot of Shia Islam. The civil war has exposed underlying grievances between Shia and Sunni.

Lebanon has been relatively stable, but struggles to maintain a balance between its religious and ethnic sects. In the government, the President must be Christian, the prime minister is Sunni and the parliamentary speaker is Shia. Fighting has mostly been concentrated in the Sunni dominated North in small pockets near the Syrian border, with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah aiding and supporting Assad’s regime.

The 1979 Iranian Revolution was key to empowering the Shia community. Iran sponsored and encouraged Shia uprisings in Saudi Arabia’s oil rich eastern province. Keeping Syria in power is vital to Iran’s strategic interests in the Middle East. Syria has been the route to sending people, money, and weapons to groups like Hezbollah, a Shia militant group created by Iran. For Iran, it is all about regional interests.

This is the heartland of the global Shia community. For a long time, the majority Shia Muslims were discriminated by the Sunni-dominated regime. After the 2003 war and fall of Saddam Hussein, Shia Muslims stepped into power, targeting Sunni Muslims through government death squads and torture. Sunnis responded with suicide attacks and bombings. The war has amplified tensions between the two, emphasizing growing nationalistic attitudes of Shia Muslims.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia consistently feels challenged and threatened by Iran in the race for regional power. Iranians are neither Arab nor Sunni. Saudi Arabia fears Iran will stir unrest among the Shia Muslims living in the Gulf.

The information in this article is based on infographics published in a university project paper.

Note: This infographic is based on interviews with a number of Shia and Sunni scholars, experts and academics. This is a controversial and complex issue, with interpretations varying from country to country and person to person.

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EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with former Islamic State member

middleeasteye \ By Rozh Ahmad

Islamic State (IS) member “Sherko Omer” would now be a dead jihadist hadn’t he surrendered to the pro-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeast Syria earlier this year. Journalist Rozh Ahmad met him to learn more about the experience.

In this interview “Omer” explains how he left his hometown in Iraqi Kurdistan to join the Syrian opposition and eventually became an IS member, what he witnessed and the reasons for which he risked his life to exit the extremist Islamic organisation.

Why and how did you join the Islamic State (IS) in Syria?

Two friends and I decided to leave Iraqi Kurdistan to join the Syrian opposition and its fight against the regime. In October 2013 we got contacts from several people close to the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) in my hometown, Halabja. We were told that the contacts were members of the Free Syria Army (FSA). We met the contacts in Turkey and they took us to a hotel for few days. Afterward, they took us to a training camp on the Turkey-Syria border and we found ourselves at an ISIS (or IS) camp instead of FSA.

But how is it possible that you weren’t aware your contacts were IS jihadists?

Well, we spoke with them in standard Arabic but they did not mention anything about IS until we were at the training camp. They talked against the regime as a machinery killing its own Muslim people and we had already heard that from FSA on TV. Moreover, they had no beards, dressed in modern clothes and even took us to a hotel in the Turkish city of Kilis. We therefore assumed that they were FSA not IS, as did many others who came to Turkey to join the Syrian opposition but joined us at the IS camp.

Not true for the camp I was at, where beheading training was practiced with chickens and other animals. I did not do it because when we arrived they asked for my skills and qualifications and because I am a technical professional and I had qualifications, I was assigned to technical works and trained with pistols and lightweight weapons. This is because my main duty was to learn the communication equipment, interception of enemy phone and radio lines as well as rescuing digital gadgets and archives during attacks. I never engaged in a firefight and this was the precise reason why Kurdish YPG fighters agreed to hand me back to my family after months of investigations.

How did IS members treat you as a new recruit?

IS commanders were very nice and respectful at the camp. You would think you knew them for many years. They gave us the best food; clothes, weapons and we enjoyed the friendship and brotherhood. In reality we knew deep inside there was a choice to leave, but (we started) to think of ourselves as fighters taking this brotherhood and luxury to Syria and we were told that we had secured a place in heaven too, that was very comforting. But beside these facts, to be honest staying also felt like a moral obligation since they spent money, gave us food, clothes, cars and respected us so much that leaving the camp felt like betraying the good deeds of those people.

What about the promise of virgin angles in heaven, is there any truths to this?

Yes, of course. We were told that as martyrs we would have 72 eternal virgins in heaven and we can save dozens of our close relatives from hell too.

So, IS promises its’ recruits 72 virgin angels and you are saying this is not “anti-Islamic propaganda” as some people may otherwise claim?

We were promised women in heaven and on earth too based on IS jihadist teaching of the verses of some Suras of the holy book of Quran and hadiths by prophet Muhammad, all of which were explained through the Tafsir (explanation) by Islamic scholars like Ibn Majah, Bukhari and Ibn Kathir. We were told all non-Muslim women prisoners will be our wives and God wills it.

In Islamic holy war you cannot kill enemy women and children under any circumstances, they can only be taken as prisoners. It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the captive women even if jihadists are married. You can buy and sell these women but for the children you have to raise them as home workers or teach them to become jihadists. I did none of these things because I was a communication technician not in the battlefield. And, who would claim otherwise when IS openly and proudly say they are carrying out these acts as implementation of Islamic Sharia.

Nonetheless, there are Muslim women who willingly offer their bodies for IS jihadists and this is called “Sex for Jihad” and they too will be compensated in heaven according to IS. However, these women were mostly with the commanders, I did not see average jihadist fighters with these Muslim women.

And everyone believed in this at the camp?

The consequences of disbelieving were not clear in an environment where they practice beheading. Nonetheless, many IS jihadist fighters truly believed all this but foreign recruits had no clue as to what the verses of holy Quran actually meant. I saw many foreign recruits who were put in the suicide squads not because they were “great and God wanted it” as IS commanders praised them in front of us, but basically because they were useless for IS, they spoke no Arabic, they weren’t good fighters and had no professional skills. They were brainwashed into the “women in heaven” and those they could rape on earth before they eventually killed themselves. I am alive partly thanks to my qualifications.

You have to remember that IS has been portrayed as an organisation of gangs only, although this is evident what they do, but the political leadership pay unbelievable attention to education and educated recruits. But at the end of the day good moral values are based on the way education and intelligence are being used.

So IS jihadists could just take women prisoners and sleep with them against their will, which the world considers rape?

“It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the captive women even if jihadists are married”
Not only I say this but the IS emirs and commanders openly and proudly says it too. They believe it is permissible to sleep with women prisoners even against their will if they are infidels, non-Muslims and apostate women. This happened to Christian women in Al-Raqqa after their husbands were publically beheaded and I witnessed it. Now it is happening to Kurdish Yezidi women of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan.

What did you witness in Al-Raqqa?

After training, my two Kurdish friends left to A’zaz where they have been confirmed killed now, but I was assigned to work as a technician in Al-Raqqa in the communications department. I was once told to go to a house to test some equipment to see if they can be useful for the technical and communication bureau. Once inside I realised it was a Christian home.

I saw six jihadists demanding that a Christian women and her daughter become their wives. The daughter was about 12-13-years-old. I told the jihadists forcing women is forbidden in Islam and children can’t be touched under any circumstances. They loaded their guns in my face and told me to leave. I immediately left to the local court that was based in a small house, but the judge was worse, he said I was wrong because 13-year-old girl is not considered a child, essentially because prophet Muhammad married his wife, Aisha, when she was only 9 years old. He accused me of having poor faith in the practices of prophet Muhammad for which I could have been detained and possibly punished with tough sentences, but my field commander soon arrived and saved me.

This was the reason that made you leave IS?

I wanted to leave first week into my post in Al-Raqqa but I was a coward, scared of getting beheaded and did not know my way out. Unlike at the camp, IS jihadists acted as God in Al-Raqqa. They were rude, arrested and killed anybody for no real reason.

I decided to risk my life to escape after I witnessed a wounded captured Kurdish YPG fighter publically beheaded. He was about my age, but unlike me he was extremely brave. He spat on every jihadist around him. He shouted slogans about Kurdish freedom and Abdullah Ocalan. I had never seen anyone so brave in my life. His fingers were cut yet he shouted insults against the jihadists. He was finally beheaded from behind to suffer and salt was put on his half-cult neck to die in agony but he did not give up until he painfully died this way. Children too were present at the public execution. However, I felt very sick afterward and did not sleep for a week thinking I am either going to runaway or kill myself, but thank God the chance came soon afterward in the city of Serekaniye.

How and why did you end up in Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ain) because I am not sure if it is possible to travel from Al-Raqqa to the Kurdish region these days?

My commander said Kurdish YPG was an infidel secularist army and impure, arguing that each jihadist has the duty to first purify his own people and if we were all pure then infidels would not exit. The commander and others too gave me examples of Palestine and Israel as well as Kosovo and Serbs. They told me jihadists should first fight impure Muslims of Palestine and Kosovo to purify them and this way Israelis and Serbs would not exist. This was argued against my Kurdish people too. I joined a new battalion; we went back to Turkey and crossed the Turkish border to enter Serekaniye.

And what about the Ceylanpinar Turkish border post that is heavily controlled by Turkish soldiers?
They just turned a blind eye.

We were initially told by the IS field commander to fear nothing because there was cooperation with the Turks at the border. The watchtower light caught us and our commander said everybody should stop but do not look at the light. He talked on the radio, then the watchtower light began to move after 8-10 minutes and that was the signal saying we could safely cross the border.

When and how did you finally escape IS in Serekaniye?

I was sent to fix radios, communication equipment and help resolve technical issues of a small base north of Serekaniye end of February 2014. I joined a new battalion for this because IS planned to regroup northeast Syria to attack the YPG. I fixed all the faulty equipment after I arrived in Serekaniye, but then they asked me to intercept and interpret YPG radio communications. YPG members spoke Kurmanji Kurdish and I spoke Sorani Kurdish, but I could’ve tried harder to accurately intercept and interpret YPG radios and track their next moves, but when I heard female fighters speaking in Kurdish over the radio I just couldn’t do it.

Nearly a week passed at the base and it was the YPG that attacked our campsite. I was lucky because I was at the last outpost faraway when YPG first attacked and I immediately surrendered after YPG sniper killed the two jihadists beside me. I shouted in Kurdish, they told me to go closer and get naked and after it was clear that I had no suicide belt, they accepted my surrender. It is true that I have physically escaped now thanks to God and thanks to the YPG, but Al-Raqqa is mentally haunting me now because what I have witnessed is just pure horror.

“Sherko Omer” is a pseudonym. His real identity has been kept secret for security reasons. The views expressed are his own.

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Khorasan, explained: why the US is bombing an al-Qaeda group you’ve never heard of

Updated by Zack Beauchamp on September 26,

Since the United States began bombing an organization called “Khorasan” in Syria, there’s been a flurry of conversation about the group allegedly plotting attacks on the American homeland. But what is Khorasan, really? What are they doing in Syria, and what do they want?

Here are answers to the seven most important questions about the organization.

1. What is Khorasan?


Khorasan is a division of al-Qaeda based in Syria. (Some analysts say it is actually not a formal division but rather an informal group of commanders.) It’s dedicated to planning and executing attacks on American and other Western targets, although it has not carried any out and details on the purportedly planned attacks seem sketchy at best.

Most of the group’s roughly two dozen operatives came to Syria from Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2012. Khorasan is allegedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli — there are unconfirmed reports that Fadhli was killed by American bombs. He’s a longtime al-Qaeda veteran who was one of a handful to know about the September 11 attacks before they happened. The United States bombed targets it believed were connected to Khorasan on September 23, the same day it began bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria.

Those are the bare basics. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot known about Khorasan — and understanding these ambiguities is critical to understanding what degree of threat the group poses and its role in the broader Syrian conflict.

2. Where does the name “Khorasan” come from?


Jabhat al-Nusra’s black flag. (أبو بكر السوري)

“Khorasan” is a word used by al-Qaeda uses “to describe the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran region,” according to Aron Lund, an expert on Syrian rebel groups at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (It is currently the name of a province in eastern Iran, along the Afghan border.) For jihadis, Khorasan also has a second, and more violent, meaning — one that al-Qaeda draws from classical Islamic teaching.

Specifically, the name is drawn from this hadith: “If you see the black banners coming from Khorasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice; no power will be able to stop them. And they will finally reach Baitul Maqdis [Jerusalem], where they will erect their flags.”

This verse, former FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan explains, is absolutely vital to al-Qaeda ideology. After all, al-Qaeda is headquartered in Afghanistan but aims to conquer the Middle East. Why shouldn’t the prophesied black banners be theirs? It should be noted that the authenticity of this hadith is very much in doubt, but the point is that al-Qaeda believes in it.

It’s not 100 percent clear that the group actually calls itself Khorasan — which, given that Khorasan refers to a region, would basically be the same as a National Guard unit from Virginia simply calling itself Virginia. For probably that reason, the US government internally refers to it as the Khorasan Shura [council], rather than simply Khorasan. But there is also some skepticism among analysts that this is the group’s name.

“Most likely it has no fixed name at all,” Lund suggests. “The ‘Khorasan Group’ label has simply been invented for convenience by U.S. intelligence or adopted from informal references within the Nusra Front [other Syrian al-Qaeda fighters] to these men as being, for example, ‘Our brothers from Khorasan.'”

3. How dangerous is Khorasan?

We’re not sure. The US justified its initial strikes on Khorasan on the grounds that the group poses an “imminent threat” to Western, possibly American, targets — meaning, in this case, Khorasan was in the process of executing some kind of attack on the West.

In recent days, that’s been walked back. One US official told the New York Times that Khorasan’s plotting was “aspirational,” meaning that they didn’t have an actual plan yet. So we have no idea how imminent the threat from Khorasan was when the US started bombing.

We do, however, know for sure that the group’s main goal is to execute such attacks, even if they’re not yet capable of doing it. Unlike ISIS, which doesn’t appear to be prioritizing attacks on Western targets, Khorasan is all about hitting the United States and Europe.

The bigger question is whether or not they’re capable of such kind of attacks. Transnational terrorism is hard and getting harder all the time, and the mere fact that an al-Qaeda group wants to blow up stuff in America doesn’t mean it can pull it off.

According to Foreign Policy, US intelligence sources are expressing pretty significant concern about Khorasan acquiring that capability, though. Specifically, they worry that Khorasan will link up with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the group’s branch based in Yemen. AQAP’s top bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is relatively capable at making bombs and is allegedly teaching other al-Qaeda members the skill — there’s a reason US intelligence thinks AQAP is the international terrorist group most likely to strike the American homeland. If Khorasan operatives learned how to make and disguise bombs from Asiri, they’d become a more serious threat.

4. Is Khorasan part of al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria?

That’s a point of some debate between experts on al-Qaeda. The debate matters, because the way the US treats Jabhat al-Nusra — the al-Qaeda group in Syria that has several thousand members and is fighting the Syrian government — is important to its broader strategy against ISIS, which is not part of al-Qaeda.

Some analysts think that Khorasan is basically a division of Nusra. “It’s cute [that the] Pentagon is literally making up [a] new group called ‘Khurasan,'” Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tweeted. Zelin thinks Khorasan is basically just a fancy name for Nusra fighters who joined up from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.

Others believe that Khorasan answers only to al-Qaeda’s central leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “[Khorasan] is embedded in Nusra but it is not itself part of Nusra,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, argues. “Having the Khorasan Shura there and keeping it separate is kind of like having members of the State Department in a war zone…[being there] doesn’t make it part of the Department of Defense “

According to Gartenstein-Ross, it’s impossible to tell who’s right because there’s not enough information available. But the debate matters. Several different studies of terrorist groups have found that a group’s bureaucratic makeup matters a lot for how it fights — how it chooses leaders, for example, or how vulnerable it is to targeted killing campaigns against said leaders. Figuring out whether Khorasan is part of Nusra is critical to understanding how the group operates and how to defeat it.

5. Does Khorasan have links with ISIS?

Gartenstein-Ross says there is “literally zero evidence” of such links, and for good reason: ISIS might very well kill each and every member of Khorasan if they could find them.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS are essentially at war with each other. Both groups claim to be the true leaders of the global jihadi movement and have at times fought openly in Syria. ISIS also has a history of assassinating leaders of other Islamist groups in Syria. For example, it appears that an ISIS car bomb was responsible for the explosion that killed essentially the entire senior leadership of Ahrar al-Sham, another Syrian Islamist militant group, in mid-September.

6. What does al-Qaeda want to do with Khorasan?

In one sense, there’s an obvious answer to this question: al-Qaeda wants to kill Westerners, and they think that Syria is a good launching pad for attacks on the West. That’s why they created Khorasan, or whatever they are calling it, and sent them to Syria’s war.

There may also be a more subtle game at work — and it has a lot to do with ISIS.

“I think al-Qaeda’s plan is to let the US degrade ISIS’s leadership, and then once the leadership is degraded, use the Khorasan shura to carry out a terrorist attack in retaliation,” Gartenstein-Ross suggests. “This accomplishes a lot of things. Number one, it’s a statement of jihadist unity. Number two, it puts al-Qaeda at the forefront of leading the global jihad. And number three, it exposes ISIS’ relative impotence in terms of its ability to carry out terrorist attacks.”

This is one theory for why the US called Khorasan an “imminent” threat, even though it doesn’t seem like it was in the process of launching an attack. “The process of degradation of ISIS’ leadership is probably when the Khorasan shura was getting ready to launch” — so when the US began targeting ISIS in Syria, it might have made Khorasan more likely to spin up an attack on the US. It’s just a theory, but would help explain the strange timing of the US strikes.

7. Can US bombing destroy Khorasan?

It’s possible — Khorasan’s membership is very small, so the US could theoretically kill enough of those members in bomb strikes. But there are two big problems with that: intelligence and America’s broader strategy in Syria.

Khorasan’s small size also makes it hard to find amid Syria’s chaos. We still have know idea if Khorasan’s leader, Fadhli, was killed on the first day of strikes — one US official said they believe Fadhli is dead, but the Pentagon officially isn’t sure. “We don’t have personnel on the ground to verify, so we’re continuing to assess,” spokesperson Steve Warren told Reuters, indicating just how much of an intelligence challenge this is.

Moreover, Nusra fighters are deeply embedded with other Syrian rebels, and they don’t wear jerseys differentiating extremists from moderates. Syrian rebels as a whole, according to McClatchy, are furious that the US is targeted ISIS and Nusra, but not Assad. Bombing Khorasan likely requires bombing Nusra, which means bombing non-Nusra Syrian rebels, which means alienating those same rebels that the US is trying to recruit to its side.

America’s strategy for destroying ISIS depends on cooperation from Syrian rebel groups, which the US wants to recruit as its proxy ground force against the Islamic State. But if the US keeps bombing Nusra targets to get Khorasan, Syrian rebels may be less likely to cooperate. In other words: the goal of destroying ISIS is at tension with the goal of demolishing Khorasan. Waging war from the air, especially in a conflict as complex as Syria’s, is just not easy.

Correction: This post originally referred to Khorasan as an Arabic word. While it is used by Arabic speakers today, the word originally came from Persian.

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Over the last 24 hours, much has been mentioned about the Khorasan “group”, following the United States’ decision to put a reward of seven million USD on the head of Mushin al Fadhli. At this point and time, it remains to be determined whether Khorasan is a new Syrian based group or whether it has just been given or taken a new name. In fact, the name Khorasan is very appropriate, as the Greater Khorasan area is vast and runs from Iran through Syria to Turkey and further. However, it’s unlikely that the name represents the group’s territorial ambitions, as they currently are (and have been since 2005) far more interested in the facilitation and organization of Al Qaeda‘s supply lines and logistics in the region. As is widely known, AQ and Iran have had long links since Osama Bin Laden met with Hasan Al Turabi in Sudan in the early 1990s, and Iran still honors the agreements they reached then. Thus, the question is why the US are choosing this moment, to flag up individuals who are part of a network that has been on the US radar for at least two years.

In 2005, Yasin Al Surri was the leader of AQ in Iran. He was fundamentally a financier and logistics manager, extremely well connected throughout the region, and soon created a highly effective supply pipeline for people, money and more from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran to Turkey and onward. The US finally realized his involvement in 2011 and approached (or rather pressured) Iran to have him arrested. The Iranians did detain him the same year, but soon after, he was released and it is suspected that he remained in Iran. At the same time, Mushin al Fadhli was also detained and later released. However, on his release he was promoted to take over from Al Surri, and there is some debate as to whether Al Surri or Fadhli is now in control. Not only was Fadhli very capable of running the supply pipeline and recruiting others to assist in the logistical management in the region, but he also had combat experience in Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden trusted him enough to be one of the few commanders he shared the details of the planned 9/11 attack with.

Al Fadhli is a longtime AQ operative. He has been an AQ leader in the Gulf and was a facilitator for Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq. Prior to the Iraq insurgency, he was involved in several terrorist attacks, including the attack on the French Ship MV Limburg in 2002, and the attack on US Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait. With AQ in Iran, he also provided support and guidance to two AQ terrorists, who were arrested by Canadian Mounties in April 2013 trying to derail a US to Canada train. Eventually he started to control the supply route – taking over where Surri left off – supervising the funding for activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria through Turkey and the fighter movement across the region, all of which also moves through Iran. In addition, he has acted as a cell commander for several operational attacks, and he is very successfully leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti Jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey. Mushin Al Fadhli has a deputy named Adel Radi al Wahabi al Harabi, who is a Saudi national, residing in Iran with Fadhli. Although al Wahabi has less operational experience, he fully assists in the management of the supply route through Iran.

Now for the question of threat to the US/EU: Yes there is a very obvious threat from Fadhli and his network and supply chain, but this is nothing new. They have been organizing the movement of money, weapons and fighters for years. There are some suggestions, that he/his group is/are after foreign fighters’ passports in Syria. However, their network has a long history and international connections, so it would be surprising, if they only had the ability to secure passports in this manner. Should Fadhli reside in Syria (possibly based on his desire to “have a little scrap” once in a while), it is unlikely that he has a military wing to his network (as ISIS now has), but is rather recruiting for his cells. So back to the original point: Why are the US flagging this up now? Could it be another attempt to show how Iran supports terrorism? Are they highlighting the need for military operations in Syria, because there really is a threat of terrorists to the US? Has Fadhli fallen out with Al Surri and created another group, the “Khorasan” and is now running in tandem? This new focus on Khorasan raises many questions of geopolitical strategies and may be an enabler for US strikes in Syria.

Brian Hanley says:
The ways of US policy are often difficult to parse, flying in the face of facts, rationality, and experience. The role of the US direct policy and indirectly through agencies in creating situations is ignored wholesale. For instance, Bremer’s abrogating the Pentagon’s plan to include the Baathists in the new Iraq army, has led directly to Baathists making up the professional infrastructure of ISIL is not referenced. Similarly, the role of the World Bank, IMF and promotion of free trade in the splitting of Syria into city people who benefited and peasants (nearly all Sunnis) who fell from hard living into desperation, is ignored. And yet, the similarity of the situation and structure of the ISIL revolution with the Russian 1917, Chinese 1940’s is exact. Those nations had elites and city people benefiting while peasants crashed. Those coalesced around communism. Syria coalesced around Islamism.

Analysts also ignore these matters. They are not politic to point out. Far safer to discuss relative hair-splitting in depth. (e.g. Who are the actors? What have they done? Are they intent on attacking the USA? Etc.) And yet, without addressing such core matters, no denouement is possible.

It is just not done for members of the military industrial complex to discuss the military industrial complex, and that includes analysts. That brands one a radical, a communist, or some other such opprobrium. However, since the USA has privatized so much of military logistics and mercenary operations, the motivation has only increased. That such general and persistent blinkered analytics goes unchallenged by serious people is convenient for the currently starving US military contractor’s lobbyists.

Without putting that whole picture together, including the huge, corrupting influence of K Street, coming to a reasonable understanding of how US policy emerges is not possible. That influence on the middle east is obvious and everywhere visible. Thus, the USA cozy’s up to wealth and influence from certain Gulf States, and does nothing but murmur against the fact that those states are the funding source for the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Khorasan, etc. Only Iran, which established itself long ago as a bad nation through an extensive PR campaign by Iran to make itself so, is subject to objections and sanctions. And yet, it is arguable that Iran’s participation pales compared to Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Qatari money and influence. Witness what Egypt is doing in self-defense against the Qatari backed muslim brotherhood press.

On top of that foundation, people in power, such as the current Secretary of State, are virtually always relics of the previous bygone era. Only when a situation persists for a generation do people at the top have ideas consonant with reality. Thus the cold war era found itself wielding reasonably sane policy. That is why, to Kerry, Syria’s Assad is a bad man and a hard to winnow out faction of revolutionaries there are good. (Notably, both ISIL and the “good revolutionaries” are supported by the usual Gulf States.) To Kerry, Russia is bad, and a revolutionary government in Kiev is good. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, et al are good, and their endorsement/participation with the USA against ISIL shows that. Nevermind that those “willing allies” are still funding ISIL.

It is a curious fact that the world places its most important decisions in the hands of men crossing into or already in, their senile years. There are exceptions, but generally, for the elderly experience and old memory is foremost and taking in new information is slow. Thus has the world operated for millenia. And yet, we retire drivers, doctors, and many others.

From that stew emerges bubbles of US policy that go pop. Still frightfully strong, strong enough to tolerate massive amounts of venal idiocy, as well as droll foolery in its actions, the USA is able to stumble around and remain on its feet. But one can chart how corruption and venality has grown, and strengthened its influence on foreign policy to a degree not seen in the past century. To ignore this in security analytics is to be remiss indeed.

If those outside the USA cannot bring themselves to do it, who will?

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Somali-Canadian ISIS fighter says CSIS missed chance to stop him

A Somali-Canadian who left Calgary to fight with ISIS in Iraq earlier this year, and was for a time believed to have been killed, appears to have given an interview to VICE this week, saying Canadian intelligence missed their opportunity to stop him.

Unreal exchange in House of Commons over Canada’s involvement in Iraq Unreal exchange in House of Commons over Canada’s involvement in Iraq Damian Clairmont’s mother advocates support for families of radicalized youth ISIS Aleppo Syria Calgary brothers left Canada to fight for Islamic State: report Identified as Abu Usamah Somali, the 21-year-old who spoke with VICE on Sept. 23 is purportedly Farah Mohammed Shirdon.

“All the intelligence workers are imbeciles. The FBI, CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service],” Shirdon told New York-based VICE‘s Canadian founder, Shane Smith “I can’t believe how someone that has extremist, terrorist ideologies was sitting in front of you and you didn’t capture him.”

BELOW: VICE‘s interview with Somali-Canadian ISIS militant Abu Usamah Somali

Global News first reported on Shirdon in June, after he was seen along with other foreign fighters in a video released by ISIS, also referred to as the Islamic State, depicting him tearing up his Canadian passport and throwing it into a small fire.

Shirdon also issued a warning to Canada and the U.S., saying “we are coming and we will destroy you. … We are going for you Barack Obama.”

Shirdon’s story highlighted the issue of homegrown radicalism and foreigners travelling to Syria and Iraq to take up arms with extremist groups such as ISIS.

Reports emerged in August that Shirdon had been killed while fighting in Iraq. At the time, Foreign Affairs said it was aware of reports a Canadian had been killed, but did not confirm the person’s identity.

Then, on Sept. 11, a Twitter account reportedly belonging to Shirdon became active again with a post reading: “The rumors of my death are false, I was injured in a battle but am healing…”

During the VICE interview, recorded Tuesday and posted online Thursday, the militant reported to be Shirdon (or Abu Usamah Somali) said he wasn’t recruited by ISIS.

“No one recruited me. No one spoke a single word to me,” Somali told VICE in the Skype interview from Mosul. “All I did, I opened the newspaper, I read the Qur’an.”

He said he was approached by Canadian intelligence “five or six days” before he left Canada.

“The next time they saw me, they saw me ripping up my passport,” he said.

Global News contacted CSIS about the claims, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Somali told Smith he, and others like him, joined ISIS because “we’re tired of oppression.”

The Canadian government said last month it was aware of at least 130 Canadian passport holders who have travelled abroad to take part in terror-related activities — including, but not limited to, those who have gone to join ISIS. Public Safety Canada said in its 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, the government is aware of 80 “extremist travellers” who have returned to Canada.

The Canadian government has made it a crime to leave the country in order to take part in terror-related activities and recently confirmed it plans to revoke the passports of those “going abroad to take part in terrorist activities.”

Canada has expressed concerns homegrown radicals who have left the country to take part in terror-related activities could possibly come back to the country and radicalize others or plot attacks.

Somali told Smith ISIS’s enemies are “everyone in that coalition that is trying to fight Islam and the Muslims,” referring to the U.S.-led coalition working to eradicate the militant group.

The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in a Iraq since early August, but began an onslaught of strikes against targets in Syria on Tuesday.

Canada, so far, has sent 69 special forces soldiers to Iraq in an advisory role and has transported weaponry and other equipment to assist Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, in northern Iraq, in efforts to take on ISIS fighters.

Somali said ISIS fighters were preparing to “crush the Peshmerga,” but also planning many “martyrdom operations.”

“Insha’allah [God willing] we’ll make some attacks in New York soon,” he said. “A lot of brothers there, are mobilizing right now, in the West. … Mobilizing for a brilliant attack.”

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GAS LEAK SUSPECTED TERRORIST ACT: Man jailed after farting in police officer’s face – twice

E19YRX Set prohibited signs - Toilet stickers, vector illustration

A man who farted in a police officer’s face twice has been locked up for breaching a community order.

Malcolm Gill, from Longfield Avenue in Dalton, also admitted referring to the policeman as ‘You black b*****d, you terrorist,’ when he appeared in court in February.

The 46-year-old reportedly span around and broke wind in the officer’s face while at Huddersfield police station, examiner.co.uk reported.

He was called to the station in January while on bail for theft.

Gill received a 12-month community order as a result of the racially-aggravated harassment conviction but failed to adhere to the rules of the sentence.

An arrest warrant was issued for him when he didn’t turn up to court after being accused of breaching the order.

He was jailed for 18 weeks on Wednesday when he was found guilty of failing to show up to appointments.

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