News / Americas

CBC: Canadians in Algeria Attack Were Young, Middle Class

In this undated image released Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, by BP petroleum company, showing the Amenas natural gas field in the eastern central region of Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages, Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013.
In this undated image released Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, by BP petroleum company, showing the Amenas natural gas field in the eastern central region of Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages, Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013.
Reuters
Two men from English-speaking Canada who took part in an attack by militants on a gas plant in Algeria in January were in their early twenties and from middle-class backgrounds, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said on Tuesday in an account that was later confirmed by U.S. government sources.

Around 70 people, including the two Canadians, died when Algerian troops stormed the Tigantourine desert gas plant and ended the siege. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said last month it had identified two suspects but gave no details.

CBC named the two men as former high school friends Xristos Katsiroubas, 22, and Ali Medlej, described as being about 24. Both came from London, a town in the central Canadian province of Ontario.

The RCMP declined to comment. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service spy agency, which has repeatedly warned of the dangers of radicalized Canadians traveling abroad to cause trouble, did not respond to a request for comment. But a U.S. government source said U.S. agencies had received information about the Canadian investigation and believed that the CBC report correctly identified the Canadian militants.

English-speaking recruits

Security experts in North America and Europe said that while Canadians traveling abroad to fight with Islamic militants is not a new phenomenon, the fact that men from English-speaking Ontario had joined up with militants in what is traditionally a French-speaking part of Africa was unusual.
    
U.S. and European counter-terrorism officials have expressed growing concern about the number of English-speaking recruits traveling to dangerous or remote areas in such countries as Pakistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen to train or fight with militant groups linked to al-Qaida.

The officials say they worry that such militants will return to their home countries with the motivation and skills to plot attacks.

U.S. officials say they are concerned that militants unknown to Western security agencies can easily enter the United States  and carry out attacks. However, they added that the quality and training level of recent recruits - probably including the Canadians killed in the Algeria - had noticeably declined.

CBC cited police sources as saying Katsiroubas, who grew up in a middle-class home with a swimming pool and converted to Islam from the Greek Orthodox faith, was likely the attacker whom survivors described as being blond-haired and speaking fluent "North American English."

"Hanging around with weirdos"

CBC said CSIS agents had interviewed family and friends of the two men in 2007. A former friend of the two said a relative had called the police, complaining the pair were "hanging around with weirdos."

CBC also said two former schoolmates of the pair had traveled overseas with Katsiroubas and Medlej. The network cited intelligence sources as saying CSIS did not have the two men and their friends under surveillance when they left Canada last year.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said nations such as the United States, Sweden and Britain were struggling to deal with the same problem.

"Canada is far from the only country that has had to deal with this challenge of radicalization... my colleagues and I will be discussing the issue in the days and weeks ahead,'' he said in a conference call from the United Arab Emirates.

Radicalization

Christian Leuprecht, a terrorism expert, said the two men appeared to have become radicalized by themselves rather than having joined a militant cell in Canada.

"Much or all of the activity in which they would have been engaged while in Canada would likely have been perfectly legal. So these cases are difficult to detect, even harder to stop, and harder yet to convict," said Leuprecht, who works at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

CSIS is aware of dozens of Canadians in their early twenties who have traveled or tried to travel overseas to take part in terrorism-related activities, the agency's director told a parliamentary committee in February.

U.S. officials have said that as many as two dozen American citizens or residents have been involved with the Somali-based al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab. A smaller number of men from Britain, some of Somali extraction but some from other ethnic backgrounds, have also been involved with that group.

British recruits have also traveled to fight or train with militants in post-Gadhafi Libya, but U.S. and European sources say that the Algerian gas plant siege is one of the first cases in which English-speaking militants have fought with a group more solidly based in French-speaking Africa.

The hottest battlefield for would-be Islamic militants today is Syria, where European officials say between 70 and 100 recruits from Britain are fighting with the militant group al-Nusrah. Last week, U.S. authorities arrested and charged Eric Harroun, a former U.S. Army soldier who had traveled to Syria to fight with al-Nusrah.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More

Hurricane Cristobal Kills Four, Moves Toward Bermuda

Storm is not expected to threaten US, but could cause deadly surf and rip currents from Florida to North Carolina
More

Peru's Congress Narrowly OKs Humala's New Cabinet on 3rd Vote

Lawmakers ratify president's embattled cabinet after ruling party offers to suspend rule requiring independent workers to pay into a pension program
More

Brazil's Deadly Prison Riot Ends

Officials say two inmates were beheaded during the Cascavel riot; two others were thrown to their deaths from the roof, and police are investigating how a fifth inmate died
More

Amid Slowdown, Chileans Adjust to New Economic Reality

Most economists now predict overall growth in country's economy of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year, down from 4.1 percent in 2013
More