Terrorism-related charges laid against Ottawa men with alleged ISIS ties

The RCMP has charged Awso Peshdary, John Maguire and Khadar Khalib with taking part in activities related to financial and ideological support of ISIS, the jihadist group that controls large regions in Iraq and Syria.

Awso Peshdary arrested, warrants issued for John Maguire and Khadar Khalib

Terror arrests in Ottawa

8 years ago
Duration 4:23
RCMP lay terrorism-related charges against three Ottawa men, who are accused of organizing, recruiting and financing a Canadian ISIS cell

Three Ottawa men were charged Tuesday by the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team with taking part in activities related to financial and ideological support of ISIS, the jihadist group that controls large regions in Iraq and Syria.

The charges against Awso Peshdary, John (Yahya) Maguire and Khadar Khalib include conspiracy to facilitate a terrorist act, knowingly participating in the activities of a terror group and counselling a person to knowingly participate in a terrorist activity.

Peshdary, 25, was taken into custody earlier today in Ottawa. Maguire, 24, and Khalib, 23, are being charged in absentia.

The RCMP believe Maguire and Khalib are fighting with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Syria or Iraq.

A number of Twitter accounts associated with foreign fighters in the region reported that Maguire was killed in combat in Syria last month, but the RCMP said they have no independent confirmation of his death.

Awso Peshdary, seen here giving a speech at Algonquin College's Muslim Student Association Islamic Awareness Week in 2014, was arrested Tuesday in Ottawa.

RCMP said arrest warrants have been obtained and an Interpol red notice has been issued, alerting international authorities to watch for the men.

"The RCMP continues to work actively with its domestic and international partners to bring them back to Canada so they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," the RCMP said in a press release issued Tuesday.

Project Servant

The police investigation is dubbed "Project Servant." It began in December 2012, the month Maguire left Canada to participate in the civil war in Syria, and culminated on Jan. 21.

CBC News has learned that police believe Peshdary radicalized Maguire, who publicly threatened Canada in an ISIS video released late last year.

Police maintain that Peshdary led Maguire — a relatively new convert to Islam — to extremist materials, groomed him, and paid for his flight overseas.

The RCMP believes Khadar Khalib is fighting with ISIS in Syria or Iraq. (CBC)

Intending to join Maguire in Syria, Peshdary bought a ticket for himself, police said. However, he never properly applied for a passport and was forced to stay in Ottawa, where police maintain he went to work radicalizing others.

Police believe he persuaded Khalib, a student at Algonquin College and a friend of Maguire, to join ISIS. Khalib left Canada via Toronto's Pearson International Airport on March 29, 2014. His Facebook account has been a source of ISIS propaganda since his departure. 

Police said that since becoming ensconced with ISIS, Maguire and Khalib, with the aid of Peshdary, have been actively reaching back into their tightly knit Ottawa circle of friends, trying to recruit others to join them.

A number of Twitter accounts associated with foreign fighters reported that John Maguire was killed in combat in Syria recently, but the RCMP has no independent confirmation of his death. (ISIS video still/CBC)

"Today's charges, along with other terrorism-related arrests within the past few weeks, underscore the reality that there are individuals in Canada who have become radicalized to violence and who are willing to act upon it," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia.

"The terrorist attacks perpetrated in October in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Ottawa, are clear examples of how suddenly attacks can occur, and how Canada is not immune, either as a victim or a source for terrorism."

Peshdary arrested 5 years ago

Peshdary’s arrest deals a blow to ISIS recruitment in Canada, police maintain, adding that the charges against Peshdary represent the first time a major radicalizer has been arrested in Canada.

Ashton Larmond, pictured in this court sketch at left, and his twin brother Carlos appeared in court on Jan. 10 on several terrorism-related charges. (Sketches by Laurie Foster-MacLeod)

Peshdary is a familiar name in security circles. Five years ago, he was arrested as part of an RCMP terror investigation dubbed "Project Samosa," which was said to be at the time, the largest terrorism investigation in Canada since 9/11.

However, he was not charged with terror offences and was released.

The charges he now faces allege links with him and Maguire and his network of radicalized individuals, and to Khalib, but also to Suliman Mohamed and twins Ashton and Carlos Larmond. Mohamed and the Larmond twins were charged with similar terror offences in early January.

This brings the total number of Ottawa men charged with terror offences to six, the largest cluster of accused extremist jihadis in Canada.