Police in Canada charge minor with terrorism
TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police charged a minor with a terrorism-related offense on Friday, alleging the youth tried to get someone to plant a bomb.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superintendent Peter Lambertucci said officers found elements and traces of homemade improvised explosives and the youth suspect was reportedly involved. The law prohibits identifying him due to his age.
Lambertucci said an adult male was also arrested in Kingston, Ontario after authorities received an FBI tip last month about an attack plot, but RCMP spokesman Dan Brien later said the man was released without being charged.
Amin Alzahabi, the father of Hussam Eddin Alzahabi, 20, said earlier Friday his adult son had been arrested but not charged. He said he was unsure what was happening.
“I want to know where he is,” Amin Alzahabi said at his Kingston home.
The Alzahabi family came to Canada about two years ago after leaving Syria and then Kuwait. Their home in Syria was destroyed and the father was once imprisoned for not joining the ruling political party, according to an annual report from one of the churches that sponsored the refugee family. The report said he would be vulnerable to arrest and severe retaliation should he and the family return home.
Lambertucci said the youth and the adult were friends. Both are residents of Kingston.
Police said the minor has been charged with “knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity” and “counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive” in a public place with intent to injure and cause death.
The FBI informed the RCMP of a plot in December.
“We did receive credible FBI information regarding an attack plot with no specific time, date or location affixed to it,” Lambertucci said.
He declined to say what the possible motive was and said he didn’t know where an attack could have been conducted.
Bronek Korczynski said he and other members of the four churches that sponsored and brought the Alzahabi family to Canada were shocked by the son’s arrest.
“Even though our sponsorship ended last July, many of us in the group have maintained relationships with the family — meaningful relationships — and this is just a real body blow,” he said. “We’re just gobsmacked by this. It’s so out of whack with the family we’ve come to know and care for.”
In a joint statement, the Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses said they support the police in their investigation and pointed out that hundreds of people have been successfully settled in Canada as church-sponsored refugees after passing government screenings.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said the refugee screening process needs to be seriously examined, citing a 2017 audit of the Canada Border Services Agency that found 39 cases in which Syrian refugee claimants in Canada didn’t receive proper screening. The agency acknowledged the error but said a review afterward found that none of the 39 people were inadmissible.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who oversaw the arrival of more than 50,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected, noted Canada is one of the safest countries in the world and said that’s in part due to the work of police and intelligences services.
“Anyone who chooses to divide Canadians against each other, to use fear or violence to threaten our society, will fail because Canadians are strong and resilient,” Trudeau said.
A police plane has been flying over downtown Kingston since early January and Lambertucci confirmed it was being used for surveillance in the investigation. He denied suggestions police had moved to arrest the suspect because people became aware of the aerial surveillance.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Michael LeSage thanked several agencies including the FBI, Kingston police, Ontario Provincial police, Canada Border Services Agency and CSIS, Canada’s spy agency for their help.