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Jihadists born here pose new threat
Hard to detect, CSIS says
Stewart Bell
National Post

TORONTO - Counter-terrorism investigators are finding an increasing number of "homegrown" Canadian extremists like those who bombed the London transit system in July, and some have undergone training inside Canada, a new report says.

A "secret" intelligence study obtained by the National Post says a "high percentage" of the Canadian Muslims involved in extremist activities were born in Canada, a marked shift from the past when they were mostly refugees and immigrants.

"Increasingly, we are learning of more and more extremists that are homegrown," says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service document, adding that the "Canadianness" of the new generation makes them more difficult to detect.

"These radicalized Canadians are involved in a wide range of extremist activities, including downloading and translating documents from the Internet that promote violence, networking and physically training for jihad," it says.

"Some undergo training abroad or in Canada, including commando-like paintball and extreme martial arts," says the report. "In a few cases, Canadian extremists have participated in jihad and a few have been killed in the process."

The 73-page report, "Paths to Radicalization of Home-Grown Islamic Extremists in Canada," was distributed internally after suicide bombers struck the London underground and a double-decker bus on July 7, killing more than 50.

The revelation that the bombers were British -- three were born in the U.K. and one was a Muslim convert from Jamaica -- highlighted the disturbing phenomenon of homegrown terrorists, those who were either born in the West or immigrated as children and yet are virulently anti-Western and pro-al-Qaeda.

A handful of such terrorists have already emerged from Canada. Mohammed Jabarah of St. Catharines, Ont., joined al-Qaeda and tried to blow up the American and Israeli embassies in Southeast Asia. His brother Abdul Rahman, a member of a Saudi al-Qaeda cell, was killed in 2003.

Canadian-born Momin Khawaja was arrested in Ottawa last year on charges he was part of a British bombing plot and is awaiting trial. U.S. authorities recently charged Canadian-born Omar Khadr with joining an al-Qaeda faction in Afghanistan and killing a U.S. soldier.

"A small number of Muslims in Canada have adopted the path of violence and jihad in the pursuit of political and/or religious aims," the CSIS report says. "The reasons for this are varied, and include parental influence, the efforts of charismatic spiritual leaders with extremist views and a general sense of anger at what is seen as Muslim oppression.

"There does not appear to be a single process that leads to extremism; the transformation is highly individual. Once this change has taken place, such individuals move on to a series of activities, ranging from propaganda and recruiting, to terrorist training and participation in extremist operations."

In the past, those involved in terrorist activities in Canada, such as Fateh Kamel, ringleader of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA); and the al-Qaeda-trained bomb maker Ahmed Ressam, were migrants who brought their hardline views with them from their homelands.

But the study claims that is no longer the case. Today, many of the extremists on the CSIS radar are second- and third-generation Canadians, or recent converts to Islam. "The high percentage of Canadian-born subjects illustrates the changing nature of Islamic extremism in Canada," the study says.

"The implications of this shift are important."

It means that the screening of immigrants is becoming less central to the fight against terrorism. As well as investigating newcomers, authorities must also now be on the lookout for radicals emerging from within Canada's Muslim and convert community.

Converts are fast becoming a major worry to security authorities. Officials fear an overzealous convert to Islam's radical fringe may try to prove his devotion by staging a terrorist attack in Canada.

The report calls conversion to extremist Islam "a phenomenon of increasing concern to Western governments" and notes that, "It is possible that an attack will be carried out by a radicalized individual -- possibly a convert to radical Islam -- seeking to punish Canada for its actions abroad."

The study says Canada's extremists do not come from any one level of society, but it lists several factors that it says are driving Canadian Muslims to adopt extremist views.

Fathers who have embraced extremist Islam have "passed their fervour to their children," it says. But some Muslims disagree with that conclusion, noting that extremist youth have also come from moderate pro-Western families.

The report says extremist rhetoric espoused by Islamic leaders is also a powerful factor in radicalization. "Several Canadian Muslims adopted an extremist interpretation of Islam through the advice and influence of such spiritual leaders."

Sympathy for the global Muslim community, which is perceived as suffering at the hands of the West, Russia and Israel, is another factor, CSIS writes. Extremists believe they must take action to help their "spiritual brethren."

© National Post 2005

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