Canadian ‘extremist travellers’ a significant concern, RCMP says after ISIS-related arrest

Click to play video: 'Terrorism charges against women are rare in Canada: expert' Terrorism charges against women are rare in Canada: expert
Expert Jessica Davis said the number of charges doesn’t accurately convey the involvement of women in terrorism in Canada – Aug 26, 2020

Extremists who have taken part in terrorist activities overseas remain a “significant concern,” the RCMP said Thursday as a Toronto-area woman appeared in court to face charges she attempted to join ISIS.

Haleema Mustafa, 23, was remanded into custody until Monday at her first court appearance on two counts of terrorism, including leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activities.

The RCMP said Mustafa was alleged to have flown to Turkey last year with her husband, Ikar Mao, who was charged in December with attempting to join ISIS in Syria.

“Canadian Extremist Travellers … continue to present a significant concern to law enforcement and intelligence services, having travelled abroad to engage in terrorism-related activities,” the RCMP said.

Read more: Woman arrested in Toronto area for allegedly trying to join ISIS

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The RCMP said its Ontario Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (O-INSET) was investigating those who had left Canada for terrorist purposes and those who have returned.

Mustafa, a resident of Markham, Ont., left Toronto with Mao in June 2019. They were taken into custody by Turkish authorities in a city an hour’s drive north of a Syrian border town.

The case returns to court on Monday. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment. Mao also remains in custody.

The arrest of Mustafa, a resident of Markham, Ont., followed a “lengthy investigation” involving the Canada Border Services Agency and police in York, Toronto and Guelph, as well as the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, among others, the RCMP said.

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Guelph man charged with terrorism-related offences – Dec 6, 2019

“The primary objective of these investigations is to ensure public safety while deterring, preventing and/or disrupting others from engaging in similar criminal activity,” the RCMP statement said.

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On Sunday, the RCMP arrested Kevin Omar Mohamed, who travelled to Syria in 2014 to take part in the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusrah. He was convicted and released from prison in 2019.

But the RCMP said he was taken back into custody after an investigation turned up information suggesting he “may pose a risk to public safety.” He is being held on a terrorism peace bond.

Read more: Convicted al-Qaeda supporter arrested for 2nd time since release from prison

Meanwhile, a Calgary man who had allegedly travelled to Syria and taken part in ISIS was arrested in July. Hussein Sobhe Borhot, 34, was charged with four terrorism offences, including kidnapping.

The RCMP has also been investigating Canadian women and men who were captured by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, and who are being held at camps for foreign ISIS detainees.

“Appreciating we have a certain level of visibility on some of these individuals, we do rely on the public for support in identifying those who have intentions to either travel for a terrorist purpose or pose a more localized threat,” said Supt. Christopher deGale, the officer in charge of O-INSET.

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