The Canadian government is warning its citizens that it knows of at least 180 people who have traveled abroad to join terror groups and is tracking another 60 “extremist travelers who had returned to Canada,” according to a new government report that provides further evidence of the Islamic State’s migration to North America.
Terrorists returning to Canada after fighting abroad in hotspots such as Syria “raise serious security concerns,” says the report, which warns that “a violent act of terrorism could occur in Canada.”
Canadian authorities, like those in the United States, have continued to monitor a number of Western individuals who have traveled abroad to join terror groups. A number of these individuals have made their way back to North America, raising concerns that ISIS and its affiliates are planning attacks on the continent.
Canada’s finding is similar to warnings by some current and former U.S. officials, who have said that ISIS affiliates are already living in America and other Western countries.
“Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 36,500 extremist travelers from over 100 countries, including at least 6,600 individuals from Western countries, have travelled to Syria,” according to the Canadian government.
A handful have made their way back to North America, where they pose a significant terror threat.
“Returning extremist travelers may also raise serious security concerns for their home countries,” according to the report, which notes that some of these terrorists have been tied to Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.
Through the end of 2015, the Canadian government “was aware of approximately 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada who were abroad and who were suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activities.”
Authorities are aware of “about 60 extremist travelers who had returned to Canada,” the report discloses. “The experiences and intentions of these individuals vary. They may have skills, experience and relationships developed abroad that could be used to recruit or inspire individuals in Canada.”
Individuals who have returned also could “engage in terrorist financing, helping others to travel, or even planning attacks in Canada,” according to the report. “The attacks directed by Daesh in Paris and Brussels provide examples. Most of the attackers were returnees linked to Daesh.”
Like the United States and other Western countries, Canada is primarily concerned about those ISIS-tied terrorists who might commit an attack on their soil.
“The principal terrorist threat to Canada remains that posed by violent extremists who could be inspired to carry out an attack in Canada,” the report states. “Violent extremist ideologies espoused by terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Qaida continue to appeal to certain individuals in Canada.”
The Canadian government has charged more than 40 individuals with terrorism-related offenses since 2002. Sixteen people have been charged with terrorism-related offenses since January 2015.
One of those individuals was found to have had contact with terrorists in Iran.
This individual, who was arrested in 2010 by authorities, was planning to detonate an explosive device, according to the report.
After first leaving Canada, the person “swore an oath of loyalty to al-Qaida and the Taliban and returned to Canada with the expertise and intent to train, finance and equip a terrorist cell in Ottawa,” according to the report. “He also maintained contact with terrorists in Iran and Afghanistan while working to recruit other men and raise money to finance a proposed attack.”
It remains unclear how many ISIS-tied individuals are estimated to be in the United States, as the Obama administration has yet to publicly release numbers like its Canadian counterpart.