RCMP anti-terror unit stopped Montreal teens heading to Middle East
The RCMP has questioned and released 10 youths in the Montreal area suspected of wanting to join Islamic State fighters in the Middle East.
No charges have been laid, the investigation is ongoing and the 10 young Montrealers have had their passports confiscated.
The Integrated National Security Enforcement Team said it arrested the teenagers at Trudeau airport this past Friday. They were released on the weekend.
Authorities are constantly scanning social media for indications that people are embracing radical Islam but reports from insiders are even more useful to authorities, according to one observer.
The RCMP said in a statement that it is unable to release any names or information on what led to the arrests.
Investigators have, however, met with the families and friends of the suspects and said “the decision to leave the country was not that of the family, but of a single family member.”
“These are very difficult times for the relatives and loved ones of the persons arrested,” the RCMP said. “As a result, family members often find themselves at a complete loss and unable to understand the decision made by the youth.”
“They’re getting a lot of help from families or friends who are worried about how some of the young men and young women are getting attracted to extremist ideologies," said Vincent Larouche of La Presse. "In this case they had some cooperation from people around the teenagers to uncover the plan to join foreign groups.”
Family members of the youths were also questioned, and there is one media report that a family member was arrested at a home in St. Leonard.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney gave little information Tuesday on the arrests, saying he could not comment on “specific operational matters.”
College de Maisonneuve, Adil Charkaoui implicated again
According to Radio-Canada at least one of the teens was signed up for a workshop at the Islamic Community Centre run by Adil Charkaoui.
The centre released a statement saying "it has no information about the identity or motivation of these youth."
Earlier this year, six teens and young adults, some of whom had also attended classes at Charkaoui's centre, left Canada and are believed to be fighting in the Middle East.
Charkaoui was long considered a terrorism suspect by the CSIS and was held under a security certificate for six years.
Four of the 10 students intercepted were students at College Maisonneuve, the Cegep revealed.
In a news release, the Cegep said that in the last few months, the “phenomenon of indoctrination” has “taken a turn no one expected.”
Several students from the college have been accused of trying to leave or have reportedly left the country in order to join jihadist forces in the Middle East, including El Mahdi Jamali and Sabrine Djermane, both 18, who were arrested in April in what the Crown called a “preventive measure.” They have pleaded not guilty to four charges including attempting to leave Canada to commit a terrorist act abroad. A bail hearing for the pair is scheduled for early June.
But in the statement, the college points out that as a school, it can only act within a limited sphere.
“Students live in a world that goes far beyond our walls. It is becoming increasingly clear that the youth recruitment happens particularly through their activities on social media,” the statement says.
Also in April, a judge in Edmonton ordered a psychiatric exam for an Alberta teen who was arrested in Beaumont, Alta., in March on allegations he was planning to leave Canada to fight with Islamic State militants.
ISIS has growing appeal: expert
Montreal isn’t necessarily a hotbed for radicalization, said Rex Brynen, a radicalization expert at McGill University, but said ISIS has growing appeal everywhere.
“A lot of it has a lot with it being a just trendy, trendy brand. It doesn't have to do with a deep philosophical reflection of what the Islamic state stands for,” he said.
The Couillard government said it’s worried about the arrest of second-generation immigrants and promises a plan to prevent radicalization by next month.
“We always are concerned about this, given the fact that it seems to be our youth, born here, in our learning institutions,” said the premier.