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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surge

Inaccurate claims suggest US will give amnesty to young migrants
More

US Disappointed in Netherlands' Release of Drug Trafficking Suspect

State Department spokesman says legitimate request made for Hugo Carvajal’s arrest under extradition treaty between US, Netherlands and Aruba
More

UN Panel Meets on Global Aging

HelpAge presents nearly 300,000 signatures calling for UN Treaty
More

Video Clock Ticking for Congress to Act on US Border Crisis

This week is lawmakers’ last chance before recess to respond to surge of undocumented children arriving at America’s southern frontier
More

US Considers Screening Youth in Honduras for Refugee Status

Officials say children could be interviewed before they make dangerous journey to US border, as tens of thousands of children from Central America have done already this year
More

Video President Asks Central American Leaders to Help Stop Migrants

Obama tells presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras it isn't lack of compassion, but obligation to obey immigration laws that is prompting US to turn back many migrants
More