Author: Jeff R. Weyers, iBRABO
It started with a question posed to iBRABO by CBC; are there Canadians from the Montreal area fighting in Syria? Using the Identifying Vulnerable Persons Guidance in our examination of terrorist social media sites we came across several extremist individuals from Canada. One person in particular, Sami Elabi (AKA El Sami, AKA Abu Safwan AlKanadi) from Montreal quickly was identified as an individual who appeared to be fighting with the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. His post and photographs (below) demonstrated that Elabi had been pulled down the same extremist path that so many Canadians have recently also followed. This in fact appears to have been the impetus behind the latest attacks by Canadian radicals on our Canadian military personnel and Parliament building.
Lone wolves like Martin Coutour-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau involved in Canada’s most recent attacks have definitely demonstrated the capacity to carry out the calls of ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra to attack the west. In fact, in the months and weeks leading up the recent attacks in Canada, ISIS had demonstrated a particular interest in Canada on Social media. In their Dabiq Magazine (ISIS’s equivalent of Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine) they posted a full page feature on Andre Poulin who died fighting along side ISIS (below). Poulin was later also featured in a well produced five minute recruiting video.
Perhaps of equal concern to western law enforcement agencies is the potential for well trained and battle hardened foreign fighters to return home and use those skills. By all accounts numerous researchers have put the number of foreign fighters fighting for groups like ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra at between 12000-15000. Elabi is just one example of a steady stream of fighters with whom Canada has attempted to intervene. In videos posted by Elabi on his own extremist Facebook page he is actively seen burning and shooting his Canadian passport.
In a second video he records fighters blowing up a structure with explosives at an undisclosed location.
While it is unknown if Elabi will ever try to return to Canada he definitely represents the kind of threat Western nations are facing when it comes to citizens engaging with terrorist groups. As has been discussed by many experts this past week it will require the community to assist law enforcement in preventing violent extremism. It will necessitate discussions around early identification of persons on the path to violent extremism and the need to re-examine laws in a thoughtful way without changing the fabric of what it is to be Canadian.
On behalf of iBRABO, our thoughts are with the families of our brave fallen soldiers.