RCMP allege Toronto man was joining Somali terror group
A Toronto man was stopped and arrested at Pearson airport before he could board a plane to the Middle East, where police allege he was planning to join a terrorist organization, RCMP said Wednesday.
RCMP and Toronto police officers arrested the suspect at Pearson International Airport Tuesday night before he could leave the country to join the Somali-group Al Shabaab.
"Al Shabaab is a listed terrorist entity because of their attacks against innocents in support of their extremist, radical ideology," RCMP Insp. Keith Finn told a press conference on Wednesday.
"Canadians need not be afraid; they just need to be aware and vigilant."
Mohamed Hassan Hersi, 25, appeared in a Brampton, Ont., court on Wednesday to face charges of attempting to participate in terrorist activity and with providing counsel to a person to participate in terrorist activity.
The case will return to court on Friday.
Police allege Hersi was travelling to Somalia to join Al Shabaab, a Somali-based Islamic group fighting against the country's transitional government.
Finn said Al Shabaab is a purported supporter of al Qaeda's extremist "narrative," and believes it acceptable to use extreme acts of violence to promote their ideals.
Members of the group primarily limit their activities to Somalia, but have been known to stretch beyond the country's borders in the past.
"There is nothing in the investigation to suggest a direct threat to Canadians within Canada," Finn told reporters. "However, the issue of radicalization and of people from Canada travelling overseas and receiving that type of further indoctrination and training remains a concern."
It is alleged the suspect was planning to board a plane bound for Cairo, Egypt transiting through London, England. He was then allegedly heading to Somalia to meet up with Al Shabaab members.
Finn said the charge of providing counsel to a person to participate in terrorist activity stems from allegations that he was attempting to convince others to join the cause.
He added that evidence was seized from Hersi at the airport, but would not comment on what it was.
Hersi is a resident of Toronto's east end Scarborough neighbourhood. Finn said he had been employed, but quit his job ahead of his trip to the Middle East.
Hersi's family refused to speak with reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, covering their faces with sheets of paper to avoid the camera.
The arrest comes six months after Toronto police launched an investigation based on information it had received from members of the community.
"Domestic radicalization is an ongoing concert for law enforcement at all levels," said Toronto Police Service Supt. Tom Fitzgerald. "Radicalization can affect the smallest communities in a way that can have a devastating impact."