Friday, October 24, 2014

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau: Canadian Terrorist's Journey to Jihad

At the Wall Street Journal, "Ottawa Shooter’s Journey to Terror: Canadian Sought Passport to Travel to Syria Before Attack; Earlier Years Marked With Petty Crimes":

Three weeks before Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian soldier and thrust the government into a terrified lockdown on Wednesday, he came to Ottawa to get a passport so he could travel to Syria, police said. On Tuesday, he prayed and slept in a downtown hostel for the homeless where he had been staying.

A number of details about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau emerged Thursday that began to fill in a picture of a middle-class suburban youth who grew estranged from his family—last week he had lunch with his mother, Susan Bibeau, a federal civil servant he hadn’t seen in five years—and descended into a string of petty crimes. What authorities couldn’t yet answer was why that led to the attack.

“I think the passport figured prominently in his motives,” said Bob Paulson, the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Investigators learned of his plans to travel to Syria from his estranged mother on Wednesday, the RCMP said, after the shooting and his own death.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was on the radar of Canadian intelligence and deemed a man “down on life,” according to one person familiar with the investigation. But he wasn’t on a list of 90 Canadians deemed “high-risk” travelers because of their potential for terror links abroad, according to the RCMP.

He may have had links, however, to one such person. Investigators said they are probing a possible connection to a Vancouver-area man who is believed to have traveled to Syria. That man is Hasibullah Yusufzai, according to a U.S. official.

In July, Mr. Yusufzai became the first person charged in Canada under a law passed last year making it illegal to travel to another country to try to commit an act of terrorism. Mr. Yusufzai had left Canada by the time the charges were laid, and his relatives have denied the accusation. Mr. Yusufzai, a 25-year-old Afghan immigrant, attended the same Vancouver-area mosque as Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, according to Aasim Rashid, religious director for the B.C. Muslim Association.

In a statement sent to the Associated Press, Ms. Bibeau said of her son’s actions: “We have no explanation to offer.”

Ms. Bibeau’s statement was cosigned by Bulgasem Zehaf, whom she characterized as her husband although the two divorced in 1998, according to court documents.
Canadian intelligence briefings indicate that the couple’s son had some form of mental illness, according to another person familiar with the investigation.

A U.S. official said that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau didn’t appear to have been active in any local terrorist cells or radical mosques. Investigators believe that he was probably inspired by Islamic State militants, rather than taking direction from them, this official said...