Canadian Cops Arrest An Ontario Student on Suspicion He Intended to Join a Terrorist Group

The 23-year-old Ontario man was arrested on terrorism and weapons charges by Canadian cops on Friday, as Canadian cops try to stem the flow of foreign fighters.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
March 26, 2016, 6:45pm
Photo via the Canadian Press/Bayne Stanley

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested a 23-year-old in Waterloo, Ontario on Friday, charging him with carrying a concealed weapon. Cops are now contemplating whether to lay terrorism-related charges against the student.

Kevin Mohamed appeared before a court in Brampton under suspicion of five different charges. There, officers with the RCMP's terrorism unit testified that they believe he intended to travel abroad to participate in terrorist activity. The RCMP characterized the arrest as "preventive."

"While there was no indication of any plans for a domestic attack, we must remain committed to preventing individuals from travelling abroad to gain training and expertise that could be used in the planning and implementation of future attacks on Canadian soil," said Superintendent Lise Crouch in a press release about the arrest.

While he was known as Kevin Mohamed in Waterloo, the small university town just west of Toronto, one researcher familiar with Mohamed said he was known online as Abu Jayyid — the generally pro-Islamic State activist who, on Thursday, tweeted "Where can I get the Brussels airport MOD on Call of Duty?"

Where can I get the Brussels airport MOD on Call of Duty?: — Abu Jayyid (@abuJayyid1)March 25, 2016

It's not clear which terror group Mohamed allegedly tried to join. His Twitter account appears sympathetic to al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a postdoctoral fellow who specializes on homegrown extremism and radicalization in Canada, wrote that Mohamed — who also went by his middle name of Omar — was socially awkward and felt out of place, according to friends Amarasingam spoke to, and "fluctuated between being pro-ISIS to being anti-ISIS."

A document attached to Mohamed's Twitter profile reads that "I do not support any group or share its propaganda for purposes of praising."

While VICE News can't independently verify that Abu Jayyid is the man who was arrested by the RCMP on Friday — although the account, which tweets consistently, suddenly stopped on Friday afternoon — Amarasingam says he's confident that it's Mohamed.

The National Post reported that Mohamed was being held on a terrorism peace bond — which allows the courts to more actively control his movements and actions. Anser Farooq, Mohamed's lawyer, told the paper that his client was "okay, a little confused," and confirmed that he was a University of Waterloo student.

Related: Court Orders Islamic State Fanboy to Stay in Canada

A Facebook page belonging to a Kevin Mohamed of a similar age who studied at the University of Waterloo also bears connections to Syrian activists and contains anti-Islamic State posts, but it is not clear if it is the same man Mohamed who was arrested in Tuesday. Police say they can't confirm any additional details about the man.

a single bullet because of him and he hasn't seen a Kalashnikov except on the internet

— Abu Jayyid (@abuJayyid1)March 25, 2016

The arrest, which occurred just days after the airport and subway attacks in Brussels — although, police stress, there is no direct connection — is another in a long string of arrests of Canadians who have tried to travel abroad to join the Islamic State and other groups. But while cops may have stopped many, more than a hundred others have managed to make it out of the country and link up with those organizations in Syria and elsewhere.