Calgary man killed while fighting in Syria: security source
Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014 2:21PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 15, 2014 5:11PM EST
A Calgary man has died while fighting in Syria, a security source has confirmed to CTV News.
He has been identified as 22-year-old Damian Clairmont. Clairmont also went by the name Mustafa Al-Gharib, according to a National Post story published last July. The story said Clairmont converted to Islam following a suicide attempt, and left for Syria in November 2012.
He would not explain why he left Canada to fight in Syria, telling the Post only that “It’s between me and God and that’s it.”
The federal government has not confirmed Clairmont’s death. However, in a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs department said: “We are aware of reports that Canadians have been killed in Syria. We are following the situation closely.”
Jean-Bruno Villeneuve said in an email that since April 24, 2011, Canada “has advised against all travel to Syria due to the deteriorating security situation.”
A spokesperson for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) told CTV that “dozens of Canadians are believed to have travelled, or are planning to travel, to parts of the world where they can engage in terrorist activities.”
The agency’s statement to CTV said that Syria has become “a significant destination” for Canadians who travel abroad to participate in such activities.
Canada’s security agencies “typically watch people who they believe are at risk to leave the country,” CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson reported.
“Those people can, in fact, be arrested and detained under Canadian law. It is now a criminal act to attempt to leave Canada to join a terrorist group or to receive terrorist training.”
Foreign mercenaries have flooded into Syria to join rebels that have been struggling to oust President Bashar al-Assad since March 2011. Media reports suggest foreign fighters have also joined hard-line Islamist groups, some affiliated with al Qaeda, which are seeking to take control of the rebel movement.
The United States cut off aid to rebel groups over concerns that they had been overrun by extremists who were commandeering the supplies. Fighting among rebel groups has also weakened their insurgency against al-Assad, who has managed to fend off their efforts, re-take some of the ground the rebels gained, and remain in power.
Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said American officials were considering reinstating that aid ahead of a peace conference set to open Jan. 22 in Geneva.
“We know it’s important, we know they need it,” Kerry said on Sunday.
The nearly three-year civil war has left an estimated 130,000 people dead and sent more than two million Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries. The World Food Programme said it delivered food rations to 3.8 million residents in Syria in December, establishing a new record.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that it has stopped updating its death toll in Syria because it can no longer verify the information due to its limited access to reliable sources on the ground.