Baird acknowledges homegrown terrorism but refuses comment on Algeria

A part of the gas plant in Ain Amenas is seen during a visit for news media organized by the Algerian authorities, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. AP Photo

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird acknowledged Tuesday that homegrown terrorism is a challenge in many parts of the West and something “that deeply concerns us,” while he refused to comment on a CBC News report identifying two London, Ont. men involved in January’s deadly attack in Algeria.

Speaking on a conference call from the United Arab Emirates, Baird referred questions about the matter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, intelligence services and law enforcement agencies.

“We’ve been working tremendously closely with Algerian officials. Obviously our intelligence services and law enforcement agencies have been doing some important work,” Baird said.

RCMP officials were not commenting on the report Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Toews said the government does not comment on issues of national security.

Baird acknowledged homegrown terrorism has happened “in many parts of the West” including the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden.

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“It’s obviously something that deeply concerns us and something that all Canadians want to do all we can to prevent,” he said.

He also refuted the suggestion that the government originally denied Canadians’ involvement in the attack, which killed at least 38 hostages and 29 militants during a four-day siege of a natural gas plant.

“We never said there weren’t Canadians. We never challenged the Algerian government. What we simply said is we didn’t have proof of Canadian involvement,” Baird said.

“I can say that our intelligence service and the RCMP have worked closely with Algerian officials. Canada is far from the only country that has had to deal with this challenge of radicalization. I think it goes without saying that we all want to recommit ourselves to do more to combat this real challenge that many countries in the West have.”

Baird said he and his colleagues will be discussing the issue in the days and weeks ahead.

When asked if he had any ideas about how to counter the challenge of terrorism, Baird replied: “I suspect it would probably be best for me to talk to my cabinet colleagues rather than to speculate in the media and give my off-the-cuff suggestions while I’m travelling on the road.”

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