Speaking to the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, Abu Henricki al Canadi said he was instructed to travel to Puerto Rico, take a boat to Mexico and cross into the U.S.
“What they wanted to do, basically, is they wanted to do financial attacks. Financial attacks to cripple the economy,” he said in the May 12 interview conducted at a prison in northeast Syria.
The 39-year-old said he was not told the full details but the operation was masterminded by a New Jersey man and he assumed it was a bombing mission that would strike financial targets in the New York area.
“I haven’t told anyone this information,” he said.
Abu Henricki is a dual citizen of Canada and Trinidad. He is married to a British Columbia woman. Both were captured earlier this year by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during the collapse of ISIS.
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He claimed the ISIS intelligence wing approached him about the plot in 2016 “because I’m from that area” but he declined to take part, prompting him to be imprisoned in Manbij, Syria until 2017.
“I refused to do it. That is why also I’m put into prison and been tortured,” he said, adding he had been beaten, suspended, starved and waterboarded by ISIS during his detention.
Fifteen Canadian adults are being detained by Kurdish-led forces. Another 17 Canadian children are also being held. To date, none have been charged by Canadian authorities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week the RCMP and other agencies were “struggling” with the challenge of using international intelligence information as courtroom evidence.
During the interview, Abu Henricki claimed he thwarted the plot by not co-operating. He said the others recruited for the operation were also Trinidadians but had similarly refused and were later killed in airstrikes.
“Please be advised, I was not willing to do it,” he said. “But this is one of their wicked, one of the plans that they had, and which I would like to think I foiled the plan by not being part of it.”
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The researchers who conducted the interview said the Canadian government was not speaking to the detainees because it feared lawsuits like the one that resulted in a $10.5-million payment to Omar Khadr.
“While these lawsuits have made the Canadians averse to visiting their citizens who are detained by the SDF, in failing to debrief with them, they may be missing valuable information about plots aimed at the West,” they wrote.
Another Canadian, Tabirul Hasib, was on an Interpol list of ISIS members believed to have been recruited to carry out suicide attacks in Europe.