Two recent events – both involving Canadians – underscore an emerging terrorism trend with very real and very frightening repercussions.
First, middle-aged American David Headley pleaded guilty in an Illinois courthouse to twelve counts of facilitating terrorism in connection to the devastating 2008 attacks that rocked Mumbai, India. More specifically, between 2002 and 2005, Headley received terrorism training in Pakistan with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a banned terrorist group in Canada. With orders from the LeT, he changed his name in 2006 from Daood Gilani to David Headley and began presenting himself as “neither Muslim nor Pakistani“. Why did he do this? So that he could more easily pass as an English-speaking, non-Muslim, American citizen in his subsequent trips to India as a LeT sleeper agent. Once there, he gathered video surveillance and target information from Mumbai that he passed on to LeT agents in Pakistan that went into planning the Mumbai massacre. The Canadian connection is Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian immigration consultant who was arrested alongside Headley in October 2009. He, too, is thought to have received LeT training in Pakistan.
Second, media reports suggest that a Somali-Canadian died fighting alongside al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization recently proscribed in Canada. Open source information remains sketchy, but it is thought that the man travelled to Somali to join the group and that at least another five Canadians are still fighting with al Shabaab.
What’s the trend, then?
Al Qaeda, its franchises and subsidiaries in Iraq and Yemen, and allied organizations like al Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban, have shifted focus to actively seek, recruit, and train citizens of non-Muslim countries. The idea is to establish the “ultimate fifth columnists” of Western jihadists, free to travel within and between Western countries and able to blend into Western society while eluding security systems.
What does this mean for Canada?
We should expect to find more Canadians turning up in foreign battlefields fighting and dying alongside proscribed terrorist organizations; more Canadians charged with facilitating local attacks in other Western countries; and foreign-trained Canadian citizens returning home to lead homegrown attacks.
This might get ugly, folks.