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Friday, May 13, 2005

Clear and present danger: Canadian Islamist terrorists

Two declassified reports from the Canadian intelligence service say young Islamic militants with Canadian nationality or residency have been through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan or elsewhere and constitute "a clear and present danger to Canada and its allies."
"The presence of young, committed jihadists in Canada is a matter of grave concern," states one of the reports, highlighting fears that the northern neighbor might become a staging post for terror attacks in the United States.
"They represent a clear and present danger to Canada and its allies and are a particularly valuable resource for the international Islamic terrorist community in view of their language skills and familiarity with Western culture and infrastructure," says the report, titled "Sons of the Father: The Next Generation of Islamic Extremists in Canada."
Barbara Campion, spokeswoman for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the situation was "alarming because [in many cases] these are people who don't have any obvious pedigree in extremism or connection to terrorist groups."
In other cases, persons with long and well-known histories of association with terrorist groups are at large in the country, apparently continuing to organize.
Jim Judd, the service's director, told a Canadian Senate hearing recently that Canada was home to "several graduates of terrorist training camps, many of whom are battle-hardened veterans of campaigns in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere."
"Often these individuals remain in contact with one another ... or with colleagues outside of the country," he said, "and continue to show signs of ongoing clandestine-type activities, including the use of countersurveillance techniques, secretive meetings and encrypted communications."
The reports, released to the National Post newspaper under Canada's Access to Information Act, were produced in April 2004, but Miss Campion said "the situation depicted [in them] continues to be accurate."
Miss Campion would not comment on the estimated number of militants in Canada, but said the service was monitoring about 350 individuals and organizations in Canada and abroad.
"It is safe to say we are keeping an eye on them," Miss Campion said, adding that "whenever we find something that might be of use to law-enforcement or immigration agencies, we pass that along."
She said her service was working "very, very closely" with its U.S. counterparts. "If we have information we think an intelligence partner needs to know, we pass that right along."
As legal Canadian residents, the militants would be entitled to cross the border into the United States without a passport -- a serious vulnerability identified by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.