OTTAWA — The three suspects arrested in a five-day terrorism sweep were among the roughly 90 names on the RCMP’s national security watch list, the Toronto Star has confirmed.
And law enforcement sources expect more terrorism-related arrests in the coming weeks, as the world’s attention remains focused on last week’s attacks in Paris.
Twin brothers Carlos and Ashton Larmond, 24, and Suliman Mohamed, 21, were among the 90 individuals connected to around 63 active terrorism probes by domestic security agencies.
The three men were arrested over the last five days and charged with a number of terrorism related offences, including participating in the activities of a terror group.
One of the brothers, Carlos, was arrested at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport in Montreal on Friday. Police expect evidence to show he held an airline ticket to Delhi, India via Frankfurt, Germany, and was intending to travel to Syria to fight for a terrorist cause.
His brother Ashton was arrested the same day at a ski hill northeast of Gatineau, Que., just outside of Ottawa.
A law enforcement source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said police believe all three men would have liked to have travelled abroad had they been able to. But the source would not say whether the three were linked to another Ottawa area man, John Maguire, who left Canada to fight in Syria last year. Maguire, who has adopted the name “Abu Anwar al-Canadi,” released a video last December urging attacks on Canadian soil.
Little is known about the case against the three men, and the charges have yet to be tested in court. What is known is that police believe Mohamed conspired with the two brothers to commit terrorist acts.
Police do not believe the three were radicalized in local mosques, and did not consider them to be immediate threats in the Ottawa area. However CSIS and the RCMP have said suspects sometimes become greater threats at home after their plans to travel abroad are foiled.
Authorities are also paying even greater attention to those on the watch list since last fall’s attack by gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was shot dead after killing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and storming Parliament Hill last October.
Mohamed made his first appearance in an Ottawa court Tuesday morning, on charges of conspiring to commit a terrorist act and participating in the activities of a terrorist group. He remained expressionless, staring straight ahead as a judge remanded him into custody until his next hearing on Feb. 12.
His father, Idris Altahir, and his mother, Iwona Buziak-Mohamed, both attended the brief hearing. Altahir sighed loudly as Mohamed was led from the courtroom by a security officer.
Altahir spoke briefly with reporters, but Buziak-Mohamed was adamant the family not address the media.
“So far, I know nothing (of the charges),” Altahir told reporters.
Mohamed’s lawyer, Doug Baum, said his client was “confused and upset” by the charges, noting that the Crown prosecutors have yet to disclose the evidence against his client.
“He knows about as much as I know (about the charges), which is very little,” Baum said.
“Obviously he’s very confused and upset in the situation he finds himself in. Very confused, and the lack of knowledge (about the charges) doesn’t help.”
Baum described Mohamed as a “normal kid in almost every respect” — he grew up in Ottawa, went to school there, and is a Canadian citizen with no previous interaction with the criminal justice system. Baum noted that neighbours and friends “expressed dismay and surprise” after news of the terrorism allegations broke.
Mohamed was a “casual acquaintance” of the Larmond brothers, Baum said, but could not give further details about their relationship. Ashton Larmond did live for a short period of time at Mohamed’s grandmother’s house on Ste-Cécile Street in Vanier, where Mohamed was arrested on Monday.
The Conservative government is expected to table new national security legislation when the House of Commons resumes later this month. The new legislation has been promised since the October attack on Parliament Hill, but has been back in headlines after last week’s deadly attack in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. It’s not clear what measures will be included in the bill.
CSIS has said they are aware of as many as 145 people with a link to Canada who have travelled abroad to participate in terrorist activities, either with the so-called Islamic State group or other extremist groups across North Africa and the Middle East.
The spy agency believes around 80 have returned to Canada after having contact with extremists. That could include fighting and training, but also fundraising, creating propaganda, and otherwise supporting terrorist causes.