WATCH: A Somali-Canadian who left to fight with ISIS in Iraq, says Canada’s spy agency visited him in Calgary, but didn’t stop him from leaving for Iraq. Since he left, Ottawa has begun cancelling passports belonging to terrorists.. But it’s a strategy that might not be very effective. Jacques Bourbeau explains.
A Somali-Canadian who left Calgary to fight with ISIS in Iraq earlier this year, and was for a time believed to have been killed, appears to have given an interview to VICE this week, saying Canadian intelligence missed their opportunity to stop him.
Identified as Abu Usamah Somali, the 21-year-old who spoke with VICE on Sept. 23 is purportedly Farah Mohammed Shirdon.
Global News first reported on Shirdon in June, after he was seen along with other foreign fighters in a video released by ISIS, also referred to as the Islamic State, depicting him tearing up his Canadian passport and throwing it into a small fire.
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Shirdon also issued a warning to Canada and the U.S., saying “we are coming and we will destroy you. … We are going for you Barack Obama.”
Shirdon’s story highlighted the issue of homegrown radicalism and foreigners travelling to Syria and Iraq to take up arms with extremist groups such as ISIS.
Reports emerged in August that Shirdon had been killed while fighting in Iraq. At the time, Foreign Affairs said it was aware of reports a Canadian had been killed, but did not confirm the person’s identity.
Then, on Sept. 11, a Twitter account reportedly belonging to Shirdon became active again with a post reading: “The rumors of my death are false, I was injured in a battle but am healing…”
During the VICE interview, recorded Tuesday and posted online Thursday, the militant reported to be Shirdon (or Abu Usamah Somali) said he wasn’t recruited by ISIS.
“No one recruited me. No one spoke a single word to me,” Somali told VICE in the Skype interview from Mosul. “All I did, I opened the newspaper, I read the Qur’an.”
He said he was approached by Canadian intelligence “five or six days” before he left Canada.
“The next time they saw me, they saw me ripping up my passport,” he said.
Global News contacted CSIS about the claims, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Somali told Smith he, and others like him, joined ISIS because “we’re tired of oppression.”
The Canadian government said last month it was aware of at least 130 Canadian passport holders who have travelled abroad to take part in terror-related activities — including, but not limited to, those who have gone to join ISIS. Public Safety Canada said in its 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, the government is aware of 80 “extremist travellers” who have returned to Canada.
The Canadian government has made it a crime to leave the country in order to take part in terror-related activities and recently confirmed it plans to revoke the passports of those “going abroad to take part in terrorist activities.”
Canada has expressed concerns homegrown radicals who have left the country to take part in terror-related activities could possibly come back to the country and radicalize others or plot attacks.
Somali told Smith ISIS’s enemies are “everyone in that coalition that is trying to fight Islam and the Muslims,” referring to the U.S.-led coalition working to eradicate the militant group.
The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in a Iraq since early August, but began an onslaught of strikes against targets in Syria on Tuesday.
Canada, so far, has sent 69 special forces soldiers to Iraq in an advisory role and has transported weaponry and other equipment to assist Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, in northern Iraq, in efforts to take on ISIS fighters.
Somali said ISIS fighters were preparing to “crush the Peshmerga,” but also planning many “martyrdom operations.”