British Columbia

Hasibullah Yusufzai: Burnaby terror suspect didn't stand out

A British Columbia man, charged under a new anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving Canada to join Islamist fighters in Syria was remembered Thursday as a nice guy who didn't stand out.

25-year-old is being sought for allegedly joining Islamist fighters in Syria

Hazibullah Yusufzai is charged under a new anti-terrorism law with leaving the country to join Islamist fighters in Syria. (Facebook)

Hasibullah Yusufzai, a British Columbia man, charged under a new anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving Canada to join Islamist fighters in Syria, was remembered Thursday as a nice guy who didn't particularly stand out.

Alishia Ladak went to high school with the now 25-year-old Yusufzai.

"He was a total gentleman, walked people home from school — overall really, really, sweet. I would never have pictured him to be aggressive or dangerous."

At the Burnaby mosque where it's believed Yusufzai worshipped, there was apparently no indication that he was becoming radicalized. David Ali with the B.C. Muslim Association says if that was the case, someone likely would have noticed.

"There was nothing unusual about anything ... If this guy was doing something here, definitely the whole group would know."

Hazibullah Yusufzai in a high school yearbook photo. (High school yearbook)
​Yusufzai's family declined an on-camera interview with CBC News, but a man who identified himself as his father said that his son loved God, was a good human being who wouldn't hurt anyone and was not a terrorist.

However, a friend contacted by CBC said that Yusufzai changed over the years, but didn’t elaborate further on what exactly those changes were.

Murky details

Very few details are currently known about what might have driven Yusufzai to allegedly leave a comfortable existence in Canada to join a violent, sectarian struggle that has plagued Syria for more than three years. 

CBC News has learned that in 2007, he was a volunteer at the Burnaby RCMP detachment and also worked as a security guard at Metrotown Mall.

When not working, he loved riding motorcycles as seen in this Facebook video,  but would later have a serious accident on his Suzuki speed bike that left him with numerous injuries and a permanent disability.

Yusufzai claimed in a 2012 civil suit that the accident was caused by a driver who cut him off. It is not clear what transpired as a result of the suit, or if his legal filing has anything to do with his eventual alleged decision to go to Syria.

Riadh Muslih, a representative of the Canadian Arab Justice Committee, said that some new Canadians have turned to extremist causes after becoming disillusioned with life in their adoptive country.

A photo of Hazibullah Yusufzai from his Facebook page. (Facebook)

"They get all these ideas," said Muslih. "These things boiling inside them and they think the solution is, well I'm going to join my brothers and fight for it.”

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. CSIS director Michel Coulombe testified before the Senate national security committee that an estimated 30 Canadians had left for the Syria-Iran area alone.

It's alleged Yusufzai left Canada on Jan. 21.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams