Active participating member’ of Pakistani terror group recorded in Canada saying he was on ‘military mission’
TORONTO — An “active participating member” of a Pakistani terrorist organization was recorded at a Toronto mosque saying he hated Canada and had been sent here on a “military mission,” an immigration official alleged at a hearing Friday.
During the arrest of Mohammed Aqeeq Ansari police seized an electronic device containing an audio file in which he said he was “sent back to Canada from Pakistan on a military mission he can’t speak of,” the Canada Border Services Agency said.
“Mr. Ansari also professes his hatred of Canada and the United States,” CBSA officer Jessica Lourenco told the Immigration and Refugee Board, outlining the results of Project Seashell, an investigation by the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.
A 30-year-old Pakistani citizen who immigrated to Canada in 2007, Mr. Ansari returned to Canada on April 12 following five-weeks in Pakistan, but it was unclear when the comments in question were recorded or at which Toronto mosque.
He was arrested by the RCMP Immigration Task Force on Oct. 27, just days after two fatal attacks against Canadian Forces members in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and Ottawa by men espousing Islamist extremist views.
The former Bank of Montreal employee, also known as “Usman Ahmed,” has not been charged with any crimes, but immigration officials are preparing to revoke his permanent residence and deport him due to his alleged involvement in Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat.
Mr. Ansari created and maintained the group’s official media website,Ahnafmedia.com. He also operated a PayPal account that accepted contributions for the militant group, the CBSA said, calling him an “integral member.”
His online writings suggest an “extremist mindset,” the CBSA said. “We are the Muslims and we are coming for you,” he wrote in a 2004 online post. He had also posted a photo of Toronto’s Scotia tower with the comment, “If I only had a plane.”
At Friday’s hearing, which was to decide whether to release Mr. Ansari from custody while the CBSA investigation continues, his lawyer Anser Farooq noted police had chosen not to charge him with terrorism due to what they called “strategic considerations.” He speculated police may have been grooming his client to become an informant.
But IRB Member Iris Kohler declined to release Mr. Ansari. “All of these things taken cumulatively, looked at together, do lead me to believe on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Ansari is in fact a danger to the public,” she said.
His detention will be reviewed again on Dec. 3.
Outside the hearing room, Mr. Farooq said if Mr. Ansari was really a danger, he should be charged with a crime rather than deported. “If he is what you say he is, you’re going to send him abroad so he causes more problems?”
He said the allegation Mr. Ansari had acknowledged being sent to Canada on a military mission was based on an audio recording cited in an RCMP report. But he questioned whether it was true or had been taken out of context.
From his detention centre in Lindsay, Ont., Mr. Ansari watched the proceedings largely without speaking. He came to the attention of counter-terrorism police in 2012, when he was charged with 21 firearms offences over a stockpile of weapons he kept in Peterborough, Ont.
While he received a conditional discharge, he was placed under a separate investigation over his alleged ties to extremism after a police search found a memory storage device containing extremist materials linking him to the ASWJ in Pakistan.
The group has been blamed for attacks on journalists and minority religious groups, and is affiliated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which Canada has outlawed as “one of the most violent Islamist extremist organizations in Pakistan.”
In January 2013, Mr. Ansari was arrested once again, this time for trying to destroy newspapers for Ahmadiyyah Muslims, a minority branded heretics by Sunnis and often subjected to violence at the hands of extremists. The edition of the paper he had taken from a Toronto-area shop featured articles critical of Sunni extremists and the ASWJ.
According to the CBSA, Mr. Ansari was seen at a shooting range 300 kilometres from his home. Police noted he had driven there “in a manner consistent with somebody trying to counter police surveillance.”
Countered Mr. Farooq: “If you want to get at the truth charge him and have ti dealt with in criminal courts. … How does it benefit Canada to deport someone alleged to be a terrorist? If it’s true, he cannot be rehabilitated after being thrown out of Canada.”