“The radicalization of Canadians continues to be of concern to the service,” reported CSIS director, Richard Fadden to the Senate on February 11th of this year.
“CSIS is currently aware of dozens of Canadians – many in their early 20s who have travelled or who have attempted to travel overseas to engage in terrorism- related activities.”
One terrorist organization that has been notably successful at recruiting young Canadians is called “Al-Shabaab”. It’s an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, mainly comprised of young men.
“Shabaab were a minority, they were just raising up. But they used that nationalism to gather support from the young,” says Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Canadian man who says he once fought alongside Al-Shabaab.
Mohamed was working for Somalia’s government in 2006. He joined Al-Shabaab on the battlefield after the government was toppled and he found himself in a war against the Ethiopian army.
“I could care less if it was Osama or the devil himself who came fought alongside me, anyone who will kill the same enemy as mine is my brother,” says Mohamed.
Mohamed says he returned to Toronto after the war, but soon noticed that other Somali Canadians were disappearing, believed to be headed to Somalia to fight for Al-Shabaab.
University of Waterloo professor, Lorne Dawson says Al-Shabaab uses the internet to recruit through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“They purposefully adopted a much more public front,” he says. “They very effectively utilized individuals that know how to use the internet to reach out throughout the world create special forums and chat forums in order to contact people.”
One of the most popular recruiters is said to be Omar Hammami, a native of Alabama who radicalized in his twenties and joined Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Hammami has been called the “Jihadi Rapper” by some for the rap videos he would make and post on YouTube. In those videos he would call for Jihad.
“He’s joined a foreign terrorist organization designated by the United States,” says former FBI agent, Clinton Watts. “He claims in his own biography that he has attacked aid forces. He claims to in his biography to have killed people.”
Watts blogs about counterterrorism and national security. He says stories like that of Omar Hammami should serve as a cautionary tale.
“This notion that there was a defined victory in countering terrorism …we shouldn’t be naive and think there’s a deliberate end to this. There will be people that are part of Al-Qaeda or whatever group Al-Qaeda becomes that will always want to attack the west,” says Watts.
For the full story on terrorist recruits in Canada watch 16×9 Friday, April 5th.