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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Cancer, Transplant Patients Rail at Drug Shortages in Venezuela

Currency controls, slumping production and smuggling have caused acute shortages of medical supplies in the socialist-led nation
More

Guatemalan Prosecutors Urge President to Resign Amid Scandal

Government comptrollers' office also issued a statement saying Perez Molina should resign 'to avoid greater social unrest that could have unpredictable consequences'
More

Bolt Sprints to Double Gold in Beijing

Jamaican's victories take place on track where in 2008 he first made headlines by winning Olympic gold medals in record fashion at Bird's Nest Stadium
More

Red Cross Makes Plea for Documentation on 'Disappeared'

1980s saw disappearance of thousands of people as consequence of political unrest; disappeared now include people who go missing in natural disasters and wars
More

WFP: Haiti Drought Cuts Harvests, Raises Prices, Food Crisis Looms

Drought has led to acute water shortages, shrivelled harvests and raised food prices, weakening fragile food supply and worsening hunger among poor
More

Colombia Rebel Pleads Guilty in US to Hostage-Taking

Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran charged along with 18 other FARC members with crimes relating to 2003 kidnappings of Americans Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, Keith Stansell
More