From The Ottawa Citizen
Radical Somali-Canadians potential threat: RCMP boss
Horn of Africa insurgency attracts ‘thousands’
Islamic radicalization of Canada’s Somali community is becoming a national security concern, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said Friday.
The potential of Somali-Canadians adopting the extremist ideology of the Islamist insurgency ravaging the failed state is on an evolving list of national security issues and threats Elliott outlined in a sobering speech to an Ottawa conference of security intelligence specialists.
Despite recent successes such as thwarting the Toronto 18 and Momin Khawaja terrorism plots, he said the current threat environment remains severe, from a resurgent al-Qaeda and fugitive Tamil Tigers to nuclear technology smuggling and border concerns.
Success in countering the dangers will require police to take on more of national security role and, “put more terrorism cases before the courts and more terrorists in jail.”
That includes possibly arresting people involved in the trafficking and use of Afghan heroin, a major source of Taliban revenue, and charging them under Canada’s terrorism financing laws, he said.
“The Taliban survives, and is able to continue to kill Canadian soldiers, because it is funded by the Afghan drug trade,” he said.
Arresting those involved in Canada, “would help send a strong message to the world that we are serious about prosecuting accomplices to terror.”
While disrupting credible and imminent threats without sufficient evidence to justify criminal charges is sometimes necessary, he said, “counter-terrorism measures based exclusively on intelligence that falls short of the evidentiary threshold are fraught with danger and difficulty.”
Without mentioning the federal government’s now-discredited security certificate regime for jailing and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism based on secret intelligence rather than open criminal courts, he said, “I believe that law enforcement and criminal prosecutions will be the new paradigm of national security in democratic nations the world over.
“Most democratic nations have realized that infringing on the very rights and freedoms we seek to protect from terrorism is ultimately untenable, it is also not very effective in countering terrorist threats.”
Canada hosts one of the largest Somali diaspora communities in the western world. Somali-Canadians are at risk of being radicalized and recruited to fight with Islamist al-Shabaab (the youth) extremist movement in Somalia’s civil war.
“The ranks of the Somali insurgency are attracting thousands of young men who have been radicalized by the harsh reality of depravation and civil war,” said Elliott.
“More recently, al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups have begun calling on the larger Muslim world to join Somali fighters in order to establish a caliphate in the Horn of Africa. Foreign fighters are reportedly answering the call.”
He offered no evidence that Somali-Canadians are involved. But given recent cases of Somali-American teenagers from Minnesota fighting and dying for al-Shabaab, “the potential follow-on threat, from a Canadian and RCMP perspective, is Somali-Canadians who travel to Somali to fight and then return, imbued with both extremist ideology and the skills necessary to translated it into direct action.”
Canada, he continued, also is home to an estimated 250,000 Tamils and, “one of the few places in the world where LTTE terrorists (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or Tamil Tigers) and supporters might seek to hide in plain sight, and potentially launch terrorist activities.”
Terrorism experts say the migrant smuggling ship intercepted off the West Coast carrying 76 Sri Lankan men this month is owned by the outlawed Tamil Tigers. Some fear it may be the first wave of defeated Tiger fighters fleeing for safe haven following the end of Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war.
Although it is too soon to conclude whether any of the men represent a security threat to Canada, the fact of their arrival, and the potential for others to follow, raises security concerns, said Elliott.
Even if the target of potential LTTE terrorists in Canada was not specifically Canadian, the outcomes could still be devesting, he said.
“Remember that in its aspirations for a Sikh homeland, the Babbar Khalsa had no specific grievance with Canada. However, their activists and sympathizers here both conceived and carried out the Air India bombing. The result was the world’s worst terrorist attack involving aircraft before the fall of 2001, and the worst mass murder in Canadian history.”
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda along with its offshoots, associates and hangers-on, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror groups remain highly virulent to Canada, he said.
“As far as al-Qaeda is concerned, Canada is the enemy,” he said, referring to Osama bin Laden’s infamous 2002 communiqué placing Canada and five other U.S. allies on its global hit list.
“Since then, there has not been a single indicator to suggest that al-Qaeda has changed its position in this regard. Sadly, as we have seen on a number of fronts, including Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, the role of AQ camps in training young Canadian militants, kidnappings of Canadians aboard and al-Qaeda’s role in Canadian terrorism cases, bin Laden’s Canadian fatwa continues.”
Hezbollah, “represents both a domestic and a global security threat that potentially equals — and perhaps outstrips — that of al-Qaeda. While Hezbollah has not articulated any specific grievance with Canada, from its perspective any state that supports Israel or Israeli interests is the enemy, which cases casts a wide net.”