John Maguire, Ottawa man fighting for ISIS, urges attacks on Canadian targets in video

John Maguire, who urges his Muslim countrymen to carry out lone-wolf attacks on Canadian targets in a video released by ISIS today, is part of a circle of people from Ottawa who have either left Canada to fight with extremist groups or have social media profiles dripping in ISIS propaganda.

Identified as Abu Anwar al-Canadi, Maguire calls for lone-wolf attacks

ISIS fighter from Ottawa

9 years ago
Duration 2:25
Featured VideoOttawa man John Maguire urges attacks on Canadian targets in a new video from ISIS

ISIS has released a video featuring an Ottawa man calling on his fellow Muslim countrymen to carry out lone-wolf attacks on Canadian targets.

John Maguire, who was already reportedly under investigation by the RCMP after travelling to Syria to join ISIS as a foreign fighter in January 2013, appears in the slickly produced six-minute, 13-second video. The 23-year-old is identified in the video as Abu Anwar al-Canadi and speaks in English.

CBC News has learned that Maguire is not alone. He is part of a circle of people from Ottawa who have either left Canada to fight with extremist groups or have social media profiles dripping in ISIS propaganda.  

In the video, standing in the ruins of an unidentified area in Iraq or Syria, Abu Anwar warns Canadians that the country's participation in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group will lead to revenge attacks.

He urges his Muslim countrymen to follow the example of Martin Couture-Rouleau, who killed warrant officer Patrice Vincent and injured another soldier when he ran them down with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., in October.

The video also references Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's October attack in which he killed an honour guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before storming Parliament Hill.

Abu Anwar does not appear to be under duress. CBC News does not know if he made the statement of his own free will.

"This young man is definitely John Douglas...but not the John Douglas that we knew, loved and remember," said a family member who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to Maguire by his first and middle name. "You cannot imagine how badly I feel that I did not realize or understand what was going on at the time."

Converted while in U.S., friend says

Maguire is a native of Kemptville, in Eastern Ontario, and moved to Ottawa during high school, a former friend said.

He played guitar in several bands, including a dance band and a punk band — which Maguire refers to in his video statement.

After high school, he attended university in Los Angeles on a scholarship, having scored highly on the SATs, the friend said. He said it was on Maguire's return from L.A. that friends noted he was starting to identify as a Muslim.

Maguire also mentions in the video that he played hockey growing up, which CBC News senior correspondent Adrienne Arsenault said is a line ISIS has been using in its attempts to appeal to Canadians.

"We first saw it when André Poulin, the Canadian jihadi, appeared in a recruitment video for ISIS [that is] said to be very effective," Arsenault reported.

Safety minister responds

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, in response to "the recent threat toward Canada," said in a statement on Sunday that Canadians must remain vigilant.

"That is why we are taking part in the coalition that is currently conducting air strikes against ISIL [ISIS], and supporting the security forces in Iraq in their fight against this terrorist scourge," he said. "It is also the reason that we are working very determinedly to strengthen the tools available to the police and intelligence community to better protect us."

John Maguire, who was already reportedly under investigation by the RCMP after travelling to Syria to join ISIS as a foreign fighter in January 2013, appears in a six-minute, 13-second video released by the militant group on Sunday. (ISIS video still/CBC)

The Harper government did not respond directly to the video's contents and did not confirm or deny its authenticity. 

The video was produced by ISIS's al-I'tisaam Media Foundation and distributed on Twitter and jihadi forums on Sunday, according to U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant sites.

In previous online statements, Abu Anwar says he is going to have the "reward of jihad" and "the opportunity for martyrdom." He refers to Canada as "evil."

The Canadian government deployed fighter jets and support personnel to the Middle East earlier this year, joining other countries conducting airstrikes in support of Iraqi ground forces battling ISIS militants in northern Iraq.

Abu Anwar is believed to use the Twitter name Yahya Maguire, with postings critical of the fighting across the Iraqi border in Syria, but has not written on the social media site since October 2012.

The National Post reported in August 2014 that the RCMP questioned his family and friends and confirmed he had travelled to Syria "on a one-way ticket."

Estimated 130 Canadians fighting in Iraq or Syria

Canadian intelligence officials estimated earlier this year that, aside from the country's military deployment to the Mideast, 130 other Canadians have joined the conflicts in either Syria or Iraq.

Many, but not all, are joining ISIS.

Some, such as former Canadian Forces corporal Dillon Hillier, have gone to the region to take up arms against ISIS militants.

Hillier, who used to serve with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, has been fighting alongside Kurdish forces in northern Iraq since late November, with support from the 1st North American Expeditionary Force, a private group that provides aid and advice to people who want to volunteer to fight ISIS.

Blaney has advised Canadian citizens to "avoid engaging in a combat activity abroad." 

With files from The Canadian Press