* Police, spies fret over Canadians fighting abroad
* New law would prevent suspects from leaving Canada
(Adds security expert on Canadian involvement)
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Jan 21 The likely involvement by
Canadians in a deadly hostage taking at an Algerian gas plant
adds to Ottawa's concerns about militant citizens who have
trained with radical groups abroad or who seek to use violence
to further their cause.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday
that a Canadian gunman had coordinated a four-day siege, which
ended with Algerian forces storming the BP plant on Saturday. At
least 80 people were killed, including 37 foreigners.
Canada condemned the attack and said it was seeking more
details from the Algerian authorities. At a news conference on
Monday, Sellal gave the alleged Canadian militant's name only as
With some bodies burned beyond recognition and Algerian
forces still combing the site, many details of the siege and
hostage takers were still unclear.
"We've heard (there were) at least two Canadian nationals,
possibly at least one person who spoke English with a North
American accent," said U.S. counter-terrorism expert Evan
Canada, one of the few western nations actively seeking
immigrants, has a large number of ethnic communities.
While the number of Canadians known to have been involved in
radical actions appears small, they include Ahmed Said Khadr - a
close associate of Osama Bin Laden - who died in a clash with
Pakistani forces, and his son Omar, who pleaded guilty to
killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and conspiring with al
Omar Khadr, aged 15 at the time of the shooting, was
transferred to a Canadian jail last September after spending
almost 10 years in the U.S.-run Guantanamo prison.
Canadian resident Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian citizen, tried
to cross the U.S. border on a mission to blow up Los Angeles
airport in 2000 and is serving 37 years in a U.S. jail.
"We are seeing a consistent volume of individuals being
radicalized who are looking to travel abroad to either
participate in, train for, or conduct terrorist acts," senior
Canadian police office James Malizia said late last year in
testimony to a House of Commons committee.
"The number of people traveling abroad is still very real
and a very serious concern for us, as is the number of people
who could potentially fall off the radar once they've left,"
said Malizia, an assistant commissioner with the national
security branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Canada's government introduced draft legislation last
February making it illegal for Canadians to travel abroad to
commit acts of terrorism. Malizia gave no details on how many
Canadians might have left the country for such purposes.
But in April 2012, the head of Canada's spy agency said as
many as 60 Canadians had traveled - or tried to travel - to
Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to join al
Qaeda-affiliated groups and engage in terror-related activities.
Dick Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence
Service, has often said he is worried by radicalized young
Canadians. In 2006, Canadian police broke up a gang of young
Muslim men, the so-called Toronto 18, who had plotted to bomb
high-profile targets in Toronto and Ottawa.
Fadden described the group was an example of "second- or
third-generation Canadians, who in some ways are relatively well
integrated" but who had become "appallingly disenchanted with
the way we want to structure our society".
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, citing the Toronto 18,
told Reuters on Monday that "we're tightening immigration
security. But many radicalized Canadians are born here".
Jez Littlewood, director of the Canadian Centre of
Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa's Carleton
University, said Canada was not a particular hotbed for sending
militants abroad, despite its multicultural nature.
"The radicalization of the communities in Canada in relative
terms has been lower that one might have expected," he told
Reuters, citing the number of British and American nationals
arrested on suspicion of planning or taking part in attacks.
Under the draft bill, which is currently being studied by
Parliament, people trying to leave Canada to take part on
attacks abroad could jailed for up to 14 years.
Canada has no exit controls and cannot tell when someone
leaves the country, a particular challenge to the authorities.
(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer and Mark Hosenball;
Editing by Janet Guttsman and Peter Galloway)