Islamic State group threatens Canadians in new audio recording
In response to a new audio recording encouraging Islamic State supporters to kill Canadians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is continually looking at new ways to fight security threats from both organizations and individuals.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Harper told reporters that Canadian security agencies are constantly monitoring and tracking security threats. The government is also looking at ways to strengthen laws and co-operate with allies to mitigate threats, Harper said.
He added that Canada's military contribution to a U.S.-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- is an "important" part of fighting the extremist group.
The Islamic State group has released a 42-minute propaganda audio recording, during which followers are urged to kill Canadians.
The commitment of Canadian special ops forces to serve in a non-combative advisory mission, as well as humanitarian aid, is a critical component to fighting IS, he said.
Harper added: "We are continuing our dialogue with our allies to identify ways that we can assist in responding to what is a genuinely serious threat.”
Earlier Monday, the prime minister’s director of communications, Jason MacDonald, said that Canada will work with allies to fight back against the threat posed by IS.
"ISIS represents a threat not just to stability in the Middle East, but to global security. That is why we have taken the steps we have to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqis in the path of ISIS' barbarous rampage, and military aid to Iraqi security forces," he said.
"Like our allies we will not be cowed by threats while innocent children, women, men and religious minorities live in fear of these terrorists."
On Sunday, an Islamic State spokesperson released a 42-minute propaganda audio recording, during which followers are urged to kill Canadians, Americans, and any other citizens of countries taking part in a U.S-led coalition to fight the group.
In an English translation of the recording, which was posted online, spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani encourages IS followers to kill any "disbelievers,” whether they are civilians or part of the military.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State … kill him in any manner or way however it may be," the translation reads.
Terrorism expert Mubin Shaikh says an attack on Canada by IS would likely come against undefended “soft targets,” and not well-defended government buildings. “It’s usually places we don’t expect,” Shaikh told CTV News on Monday. “Everyday places that we go. Schools campuses, shopping malls, grocery stores.”
He cited the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing as an example of a “soft target” terrorist attack.
Shaikh, a former undercover operative for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, helped expose an al Qaeda-inspired terror plot in Ontario in 2006.
The U.S. is building a coalition to stop the spread of the violent Islamic State extremist group, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq. IS aims to establish a state, or caliphate, in the region.
The group has claimed responsibility for three beheadings of U.S. and U.K. citizens who were working in the area. Over the weekend, the UN said the IS advance forced more than 100,000 Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey.
Canada has committed special ops forces to take part in a non-combative military adviser mission in Iraq. Harper confirmed last week that 69 special forces commandos have been sent to the country to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces who are fighting IS soldiers.
Over the weekend, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that Ottawa has started revoking travel documents for those who go overseas to fight with IS or other militant groups.
More than 130 Canadians are believed to be fighting with extremist groups abroad. The government says it’s tracking another 80 Canadians who have returned home after fighting with radical groups abroad.
“Not all returnees are going to be threats, but certainly, it’s a very real possibility,” Shaikh said.
Threat level rising
John Thompson, a terrorism expert with Strategic Capital Intelligence, says the threat level is rising.
“We’ve seen the continuous development of capability to recruit more people inside our societies, activate them and turn them against us,” Thompson told CTV’s News Channel on Monday.
Thompson said Ottawa’s move to revoke the travel documents of known terrorists overseas will be “a major inconvenience” for those Canadians currently fighting with IS.
“On the other hand, that will mean that they’ve got nowhere to go but to stay with the jihad movement until we can close the file on them,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told CTV’s Power Play Monday that the government is taking every measure to keep tabs on Canadians who may be involved in terrorism both abroad and on Canadian soil, by working in partnership with agencies such as the CBSA, RCMP and CSIS.
The government is also reaching out to engage community leaders and family members to help look for warning signs within communities “so that we can detect those people that could represent a threat to Canadian safety,” Blaney said.
Centre for International Governance Innovation’s Bessma Momani said while the new video indicated that Ottawa and intelligence authorities must be vigilant, IS is not necessarily targeting Canadians or allied forces right now.
“Most experts would say that (IS) is trying to consolidate power,” Momani said. “It’s more worried, if you will, about making sure that it has its territory and doesn’t have internal threat, before it would take on external challenges.”
With a report from CTV’s Katie Simpson