Man arrested on fear of terrorism in Ontario
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, March 26, 2016 2:02PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 26, 2016 8:33PM EDT
A 23-year-old man has been arrested in southern Ontario on fear of committing a terror-related offence, the RCMP said Saturday.
In a statement released Saturday, Supt. Lise Crouch said there is no indication that the suspect was planning an attack in Canada, or that he was connected to the attacks in Brussels.
Kevin Omar Mohamed has been taken into custody and faces charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace, the RCMP said.
Mohamed’s lawyer, Anser Farooq, told CTV News that his client was arrested in Waterloo, Ont., on Friday afternoon, and appeared in court to face the weapons charges on Saturday. Farooq said the Crown has not yet determined whether it will lay terrorism charges against Mohamed, in addition to the weapons charges.
Farooq said the RCMP arrested Mohamed because of communications he was exchanging with “other parties” in Canada. “The RCMP feels that the communication that’s happening is not appropriate,” Farooq said. “They feel that something warranted an arrest, but obviously not sufficient enough that charges were laid.”
Mohamed was allegedly in possession of a knife at the time of the arrest, Farooq said.
He was arrested under a section of the Criminal Code called “Fear of Terrorism Offence.” Under that section, an individual can be brought before a provincial court judge if there is fear, “on reasonable grounds that another person may commit a terrorism offence.”
The RCMP said the “preventive” arrest was “in no way linked” to the terror attacks in Brussels earlier this week.
“While there was no indication of any plans for a domestic attack, we must remain committed to preventing individuals from travelling abroad to gain training and expertise that could be used in the planning and implementation of future attacks on Canadian soil,” Crouch said in the statement.
The arrest was made as part of the RCMP’s Project SWAP, with contributions from the Durham Police Services and the Ontario Provincial Police.
The Fear of Terrorism provision in the Criminal Code was tweaked last year under the Conservative government’s Bill C-51. The bill allowed police to arrest someone – with consent of the attorney general – on grounds they may commit a terrorist offence. Prior to Bill C-51, law enforcement had to believe someone actually was planning to carrying out a crime.
Farooq told The Canadian Press that police want Mohamed to sign a peace bond, which places certain conditions and limits on the freedom of an individual. “The conditions vary with the circumstances of the case,” he told The Canadian Press. He said the conditions in a peace bond “usually involve restrictions on movement and communication.”
He added that a peace bond can sometimes mean the individual will have to wear an ankle bracelet or other form of electronic monitoring.
Mohamed was an engineering student at the University of Waterloo, though he did not recently attend the school, his lawyer said.
Mohamed is due to appear in court again on Tuesday.
Under watch since 2014
University of Waterloo terrorism expert Lorne Dawson says he has been monitoring Mohamed’s social media activities since early 2014. Dawson says Mohamed has shared a mix of “strong” and “strange” views since then, but recently, he showed a “dramatic shift” in his attitude. “He went from being pro-ISIS to being anti-ISIS,” Dawson told CTV News Channel on Saturday. Dawson says Mohamed recently started expressing “a lot of sympathy” for al Qaeda and affiliated groups, including Jabhat Al-Nusra, also known as the Al Nusra Front. Mohamed’s actions included quoting pro-jihadi, anti-ISIS theologians on Twitter, Dawson said.
Dawson pointed out that Bill C-51 has made it easier for law enforcement to arrest individuals suspected of planning to travel abroad to participate in terrorism. Where law enforcement used to have to show the suspect was “likely” to leave for those reasons, now they only need to demonstrate that he “may” do it, Dawson said.
He suggested the move to apprehend Mohamed probably has to do with the fear he might travel to Syria. “The action now is undoubtedly a result of what’s happened in Brussels and Paris,” he said. “(It’s a result of) heightened awareness that we want to stop anyone from leaving because you never know what kind of training they’re going to receive, and if they may return.”
Dawson says Mohamed goes by the online name AbuJayyid1, and is not considered a “big player” or “necessarily influential” in any terrorist movement.
The University of Waterloo has confirmed that a student by the same name was enrolled in its engineering program in the spring of 2015, but did not graduate.
A Facebook page belonging to a Kevin Mohamed also says he last studied at UW’s engineering program. The Facebook page includes a handful of anti-ISIS posts from 2014, including the message: “Misguided groups like ISIS don’t represent me,” posted in October 2014. Another post from Dec. 9, 2014 says: “I can’t understand how some Muslims legitimize attacking innocent non-combatants. Where did they learn that is fine?”
On Thursday, @AbuJayyid1 posted a screenshot on Twitter of a first-person shooter video game. The video shows several people being shot at an airport security terminal, and includes the caption: “Where can I get the Brussels airport MOD on Call of Duty?”
With files from The Canadian Press