The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have laid terrorism charges in absentia against a man from the city of Calgary who was seen burning his Canadian passport and threatening U.S. President Barack Obama in an Islamic State (ISIS) propaganda video, The Canadian Press reported on Thursday.
The man, Farah Mohamed Shirdon, 22, faces several offences, including participation in the activity of a terrorist group and instructing others to carry out terrorist activity.
The RCMP said Thursday the charges are being laid in absentia because they believe Shirdon remains overseas. A Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued and a notice was to be issued via Interpol.
Police said their investigation, part of what they call Project Staccato, determined that Shirdon left Canada on March 14, 2014, to fight with ISIS in Syria. He was last known to be in the city of Raqqa.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin DeGrand said it’s believed Shirdon served in various roles with the organization.
“Our investigation showed that Shirdon served in a combat role and performed other functions for ISIS such as recruiting, fundraising, encouraging others to commit violence and spreading propaganda — all designed to enhance the activities of the ISIS,” DeGrand said in a release quoted by The Canadian Press.
There were reports he had been killed, but RCMP said that wasn’t the case.
Shirdon has featured prominently in western media’s coverage of North Americans travelling overseas to fight with the jihadist group.
Last year, the CBC aired the propaganda video of Shirdon burning his passport and threatening Obama.
“We are coming and we will destroy you,” he said, surrounded by several men with guns.
One of the terrorism charges relates to that video, according to The Canadian Press.
Another charge relates to threats Shirdon allegedly made in a video interview with media outlet Vice last September. In the video of that interview, a man calling himself Abu Usamah promised there was going to be a “brilliant” attack in New York and the Islamic State’s flag would fly over the White House.
Calgary police recently announced a partnership with RCMP and other agencies to create a prevention program, with a dedicated hotline, to address radicalization in the city, the news agency said.
The RCMP said they are working to bring Shirdon back to Canada so he can be arrested. No officials were available to comment on how likely that may be.
A report released several months ago by the Canadian Ministry of Public Safety detailed the troubling phenomenon of Canadians traveling to the Middle East to join in jihad – and later return to potentially conduct attacks.
"As of early 2014, the Government was aware of more than 130 individuals with Canadian connections who were abroad and who were suspected of terrorism-related activities," noted the report.
That threat was recently illustrated as two brothers from Calgary were identified as members of ISIS in Syria. The two are recent converts to Islam.
In January it was reported that five Canadians had died fighting alongside ISIS terrorists in Syria, including Ottawa-born John Maguire, who converted to Islam and had called for lone wolf attacks in Canada.