A British Columbia man has been charged under a new anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving Canada to join Islamist fighters in Syria.
It is now considered a criminal offence ‘to leave’ or ‘attempt to leave’ the country to take part in terrorist activity.' - David Falls, RCMP corporal
It's the first time charges have been laid under the new section of the Criminal Code that penalizes terror-related travel, said RCMP Cpl. David Falls.
Hasibullah Yusufzai, 25, is accused of committing an offence for the benefit of a terrorist group or was directed by or associated with such a group.
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"The individual is known to have travelled to Syria to join Islamist fighters," the RCMP said in a statement.
It's alleged Yusufzai left Canada on Jan. 21.
"This case underscores the reality that there are individuals in Canada who have embraced the extremist ideology and who are willing to act upon it," the RCMP statement said.
"It is now considered a criminal offence ‘to leave’ or ‘attempt to leave’ the country to take part in terrorist activity, and the RCMP will pursue such criminal actions to the full extent of the law."
Family denies RCMP claims
A woman who answered the phone at Yusufzai's home in Burnaby said he wasn't there, then said she didn't speak English.
Roh Yusufzai told The Globe and Mail that his brother wasn't in Syria and went to Turkey for the month of Ramadan. He said his brother is not capable of joining a terrorist group or being violent.
Mounties say they're working on the case with their international partners.
"The RCMP is concerned about Canadians travelling abroad to participate in terrorist-related criminal activity," the statement said.
It said countering radicalization to violence also depends on the public taking an active role, including helping police by reporting suspicious or illegal activity.
"In conjunction with local police, the RCMP outreach and engagement activities are designed to help Canadian communities and families see the indicators of vulnerability to violent extremism, and understand the responsibilities they share with law enforcement in maintaining Canada's national security."
RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said the investigation underscores the reality that there are people leaving Canada to take part in terrorist activities.
He said the new legislation enhances the force's ability to combat the activity of terrorists.
"These charges reaffirm the RCMP's resolve to aggressively pursue terrorist acts to the fullest extent of the law."
Last month, federal intelligence officials issued a warning about an estimated 130 Canadians alleged to have joined terror groups in Syria, Yemen, Somali and North Africa.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe testified before the Senate national security committee that an estimated 30 Canadians had left for the Syria-Iran area alone.