The outbreak of mass popular protests against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in the spring of 2011 and the country’s rapid descent into an increasingly brutal civil war following violent repression by state security forces and militias have produced a chaotic environment in which armed groups such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra have flourished.

The Syrian government’s brutality and use of mass violence, including the bombing of civilians, the widespread use of torture and rape, and campaigns of starvation, has been well documented. The emotive images, coupled with ease of travel and a host of highly personalized factors ranging from a search for a greater purpose and identity to troubled backgrounds involving crime and mental illness, have helped fuel the mobilizations of foreign fighters, first to Syria and later to Iraq.[1]

This article examines the flow of Canadian foreign fighters to the Syrian and Iraqi theaters, placing it in the context of earlier Canadian involvement in jihadi groups, and in particular other recent cases, such as Somalia. Canadian foreign fighters, like those from other countries, are a diverse set of individuals with different backgrounds who have traveled to the battlefield at different times.[2] This article describes the different types of individuals who have joined jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq and examines Canada’s mentions in the Islamic State’s official media discourse, particularly related to claims that it inspired recent lone wolf attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal.

The Canadian Contingent

Despite some uncertainty around the margins, it is clear that the number of foreign fighters traveling to the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq far outstrips earlier episodes of jihadi mobilization. The national, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the foreign fighters is also much broader. A record number of Canadians or those with Canadian connections, around 30 according to the federal department, Public Safety Canada, have joined jihadi groups active in Syria and Iraq, primarily Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. This is somewhat more than the estimated 20 to 25 Canadians who joined al-Shabab in Somalia between 2007 and 2013.[3] Other high-end estimates put the possible number between 35 and 100 individuals.[4] There are a total estimated 130 Canadians who are believed to have joined militant groups overseas, with Syria and Iraq being the most popular theater of choice.”[5] Most of the Canadians who joined al-Shabab were of Somali descent, but those joining the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, or other Syria -and Iraq-based militant groups are more diverse in terms of their ethnic, religious, and family backgrounds.[6] Canadian recruits are also featured prominently in the Islamic State’s media operations, more so than in the media operations of other jihadi groups.

Like the foreign fighters from other countries, many of the Canadians who joined in 2011 and 2012 were motivated in part by a desire to engage in what they see as a kind of “armed humanitarianism”[7] on behalf of Syrian civilians who are being violently suppressed by the al-Assad government. Others were motivated by the search for identity and purpose, which, for them, was fulfilled by the fight against the Syrian government and the idealized rhetoric of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and, to an even greater degree, the Islamic State and its claim to have reformulated a caliphate.

As with other foreign fighters, there are multiple factors influencing the decision to join armed groups abroad. It is often difficult to construct a full picture about the underlying motivations because of the limits of the information. There is often a dearth of open source information, which is limited to jihadi primary sources and whatever insights are available from the friends and family of fighters. It is difficult to interview most of these individuals once they leave Canada. Some fighters have produced material once on the ground in Syria or Iraq, but their motivations generally have evolved by that point, limiting analysis.

Personal reasons are also factors, though they are often overlooked in much of the analysis of Muslim foreign fighters. These motivations include the desire to atone for self-perceived sins (such as previously living in an un-Islamic way), feelings of disillusionment, and a desire to belong to a group and participate in a “noble” cause.[8] Such motivations are difficult to classify concretely for analytical purposes because they often vary significantly among individuals. As a result, it is difficult, if not impossible, to develop a fully applicable and explanatory typology.

The decision to travel to Syria and Iraq rather than other battlefields is also likely influenced by logistical factors. Travel to Syria is easier than traveling to jihadi battlefronts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Somalia, for example. The international news media and the images of suffering civilians also put the spotlight on the Syrian conflict, likely influencing the decisions of prospective foreign fighters. Finally, there is also the powerful allure of the media narratives put forward by jihadi groups, especially for those fighters who are not well educated in the nuance of Islamic theology, history, or jurisprudence. This is particularly true of certain concepts such as that of the ghuraba, the strangers who will once again emerge as the “true Muslims,” and the important placement of Syria in eschatological narratives and certain hadith.[9] These are concepts that jihadi media operatives and ideologues derive from selective readings of historical treatises, the hadiths, the Qur’an, and exegetical works.

Individual Case Studies

Although open-source data on the Canadian foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are limited, there are significant data on some individuals that provide useful, if tentative, comparisons with other groups of Canadian foreign fighters.

André Poulin

Poulin, a 24-year-old from Timmins, Ontario, who left for Syria in late 2012 from Calgary, was killed in August 2013 during an assault on the Syrian government-held military airbase of Menagh in the governorate of Aleppo.[10] Reports of his death emerged in January 2014.[11] Poulin was featured in a June 2013 report about Western foreign fighters in Syria broadcast by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, in which he noted that he was “helping people” in Syria, something that he said his parents supported but did not fully understand.[12] In the Channel 4 report, Poulin was shown fighting alongside a number of Europeans in Katibat al-Muhajirin (Brigade of the Emigrants), a rebel group founded and commanded by Russians and foreign fighters from the Caucasus.

Poulin, who had married in Syria, was expecting a child at the time of his death.[13] A convert of only six years, Poulin had a troubled youth, including some criminal activity, before he left for Syria.[14] Early on, he reportedly adhered to a particularly rigid, black-and-white interpretation of Islam.[15] In a series of Internet postings, he claimed that he had been accused of terrorism, had been imprisoned, and was feared by people in his hometown of Timmins. He also claimed that his activities were being monitored constantly by the police.[16] Poulin posted about his legal troubles online, describing some of the acts he was accused of, including threatening to blow up a Timmins gas station. He also described arrest for making death threats after he was caught having an affair with the common-law wife of a man whose house he was then living in as well as arrests for harassment, theft, and carrying a weapon illegally.[17]

The Islamic State has posthumously featured Poulin in two major films, Al-Ghuraba: The Chosen Few from Different Lands, released in July 2014, and Flames of War, released in September 2014. In the first, Poulin speaks candidly about his previous life as a “normal Canadian” before urging Muslim viewers to fulfill what he says is their religious obligation of emigrating from non-Muslim countries and coming to the blessed land of Syria to live a life of purity.[18] In his recruitment pitch, he emphasizes his identity as an “average” Canadian who “loved” hockey and other sports as well as summers in the countryside, and who was employed in a well-paying job as a street cleaner, saying, “You know, mujahidin are regular people too.”[19]

He is at pains, though, to also note the support network that he says is in place for foreign fighters.[20] Ultimately, though, the reward for those who emigrate, he says, will be the recompense (ajr) from God.[21] He calls for those with any skill, from road construction to technology, to come rebuild Syria. In Flames of War, Poulin’s frontline participation in the battle for Menagh is prominently featured in the film’s narrative, though he is not identified by name.

The Calgary Group: Damian Clairmont, Salman Ashrafi, and the Gordon Brothers

Clairmont, 22, a resident of Calgary from an Acadian family, was killed in Syria in January 2014 during fighting between Jabhat al-Nusra and Free Syrian Army (FSA) militias.[22] He had left Canada in November 2012 after telling his mother that he was going to study Islam and Arabic in Egypt. He instead traveled to Turkey before crossing the border into Syria and joining Jabhat-al-Nusra.[23] Once in Syria, he was attracted to the “al-Qa’ida types,” such as those in Jabhat al-Nusra, because they “do not steal, rape, or sell drugs or murder or kidnap for ransom.”[24]

Clairmont, who suffered from bipolar disorder and, between 15 and 17, agoraphobia, had a troubled childhood. His family moved to Calgary in October 1997 when he was seven.[25] At 17, he attempted suicide.[26] After turning 20, he became “very angry, very political,” according to his mother, and began to speak forcefully about the worldwide suffering of Muslims.[27] Despite holding some basic jobs for short periods, he lived largely off a disability pension that his psychiatrist had recommended he apply for after he was released from the hospital following his suicide attempt.[28]

Though he initially lied about his destination, Clairmont later admitted to his mother and in correspondence with a Canadian newspaper that he wanted to fight in Syria because women and children were being tortured and killed there by the al-Assad government and he believed that, by fighting, he was doing something productive by contributing to a cause greater than himself.[29] He also stated that the afterlife was a better place than this world, hinting at his desire for martyrdom.[30] Although he initially kept in contact with his mother, it tapered off.[31]

The news of Clairmont’s killing was first reported on Twitter by Abu Turab al-Muhajir, who claimed to be a foreign fighter in Syria.[32] On January 14, he tweeted a photograph of Clairmont, whom he called Abu Talha al-Canadi (the Canadian), and, in subsequent conversations with other Twitter users, reporting that his “bro” had been killed fighting FSA militias in Aleppo.[33]

His execution was confirmed by FSA-affiliated sources.[34] Like many foreign fighters in Syria and elsewhere, Clairmont reasons for engaging in militant activism were guided not only by a personalized and peculiar interpretation of Islam, but also by graphic scenes of conflict and the suffering of civilians as well as highly individualized characteristics, life experiences, and personal motivations.

Group dynamics and interpersonal relations, however, are also important aspects of the recruitment process for militant groups and, more broadly, social movements in general.[35] While living in Calgary, Clairmont was part of a study group that also included fellow converts and brothers Gregory and Collin Gordon and Salman Ashrafi. The four men also shared an apartment together in downtown Calgary during 2011 and 2012. Ashrafi left Canada in October 2012 and in November 2013 carried out a suicide bombing against Iraqi forces for the Islamic State.[36] The Gordon brothers left for Syria sometime in late 2012, around the same time as Clairmont and Ashrafi.[37]

Farah Mohamed Shirdon

Shirdon, another former Calgary resident, first emerged publicly as an Islamic State foreign fighter in a film released by the group in mid-April 2014 in which he is shown tearing up and burning his Canadian passport and threatening both Canada and President Barack Obama.[38] From a prominent Canadian-Somali family, he had previously studied at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology before leaving for Syria after stating that he no longer felt comfortable living in Canada.[39] He was active on Twitter, urging readers to join the Islamic State and posting ideological messages about martyrdom and the religious duty of becoming mujahidin.[40] Shirdon was reported to have been killed fighting in Iraq in August 2014, but subsequent reports suggested that he was still alive.[41]

John Maguire

Maguire, 24, left for Syria sometime in 2013 after expressing views that Islamic law should be enforced through violence and criticizing a local Calgary-based imam for condemning the Islamic State.[42] According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Maguire was part of a group of six young men in Ottawa sympathetic to jihadi activity. One other member, Khadar Khalid, 23, is also believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq. Suliman Mohamed, 21, twin brothers and recent converts, Ashton and Carlos Larmond, 24, and Awso Peshdary, 25, were later arrested by the RCMP and charged with terrorism-related offenses, including funding Maguire’s travel.[43]

In early December 2014, Maguire was featured in a video series produced by the Islamic State, titled Message of a Mujahid.[44] Standing amid rubble and presenting himself as a “typical Canadian,” educated and with no criminal history, he calls for Muslim viewers, particularly those in Canada, to join the Islamic State. He also links the two lone wolf attacks in Canada to that government’s participation in attacks on the militant group. Maguire clearly displayed his heavy ideological debt to the late al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, closely paraphrasing him and even basing his own nom de guerre, “Abu Anwar al-Kanadi,” on al-Awlaki’s name.[45] Maguire and another Canadian, Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud, 20, formerly a student at York University, were reportedly killed during the months-long battle for Kobane in northern Syria along the Turkish border.[46]

Ali Mohamed Dirie

Dirie, a member of the “Toronto 18” group who had been previously imprisoned for his role in a domestic terrorism plot to attack the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and a military base, left Canada in 2012 using someone else’s passport since he was forbidden to have one of his own as part of his parole.[47] He traveled to Syria via Dubai and is believed to have joined Jabhat al-Nusra.[48] Reports of his death surfaced in late September 2013 from sources close to his family and friends.[49] Born in Somalia, he had come to Canada as a refugee when he was seven.

Quebec Foreign Fighters

Montreal residents Jamal Mohamed Abd al-Qadir, 24, Bilel Zouaidia, 18, Shayma Senouci, 18, Mohamed Rifaat, 18 or 19, Imad Eddine Rafai, 18 or 19, Ouardia Kadem, 18 or 19, and Yahia Alaoui Ismaili, 29, are suspected of having left to fight in Syria. Abd al-Qadir was from a Kurdish Syrian-Canadian family and is believed to have left Canada in the summer of 2012. He grew up in Montreal and was a college student at the time of his departure.[50] He said that he was driven to become a foreign fighter because of the suffering of his fellow Syrians and the inaction of the world powers in stopping the Syrian government’s atrocities.[51] Abd al-Qadir first joined the Free Syrian Army but later transferred his allegiance first to Harakat Ahrar al-Sham and then to Jabhat al-Nusra before he was killed fighting in Azaz in February 2013.[52]

Zouaidia, Senouci, Rifaat, Rafai, Kadem, and Ismaili, who were all students at the College de Maisonneuve, a public pre-university college in Montreal, reportedly left for Syria and Iraq in mid-January 2015 to join the Islamic State.[53] Rafai, Kadem, and Zouaidia come from Algerian-Canadian families and Ismaili is originally from Morocco.[54] At least one of the six is believed to have briefly attended classes run by Quebec-based teacher Adil Charkaoui, though he denies that there is any connection to his classes and the choice to travel to Syria and Iraq.[55]

The Islamic State and Lone Wolf Attacks

In addition to seeking recruits for the Syria and Iraq battlefields, the Islamic State is also seeking to project its power and influence abroad by claiming to have influenced the decision-making of a number of lone wolf militants in Western countries, including Canada, the United States, Australia, and France.[56] The Islamic State claims the two lone wolf attacks in Canada during October 2014 were inspired by calls from its official spokesman and a prolific ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Adnani al-Shami. The assertion came in a story in Dabiq, the Islamic State’s e-magazine in an article attributed to John Cantlie, a captive British journalist. The Islamic State, however, does not state that either the shooting attack in Ottawa by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau or the vehicle attack in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu on two Canadian soldiers by Martin “Ahmad” Couture-Rouleau received any operational support.[57]

By claiming responsibility, even if only “spiritual” and not operational, for lone wolf attacks in the West, the Islamic State is trying to further inflate its image of power and influence and it has already benefited from non-stop coverage by the international news media and attention from world leaders. This, in turn, allows it to nudge the news narrative away from the increasing on-the-ground pressures it faces, particularly in Iraq, toward an image of the group as an inexorable regional and global force. A similar media strategy was quite successful for al-Shabab, which has called for lone wolf attacks in Europe and North America as well, garnering significant amounts of news media coverage and masking its battlefield setbacks inside Somalia.[58]


The current group of Canadian foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq has evolved in comparison with previous Canadian jihadists, particularly those who joined al-Shabab. The fighters who have traveled to Syria and Iraq have no familial, ethnic, or national ties to either Syria or Iraq. This stands in stark contrast to those who joined al-Shabab, the second largest grouping of foreign fighters. The majority of those jihadists had Somali roots, which was a significant factor for many in their decision to travel to Somalia.

There are also some significant commonalities between the grouping in Syria and Iraq and previous Canadian foreign fighters, however. These include similar demographic characteristics among most individuals, present or past, including age. The fighters are usually in their late teens to mid-twenties, with the average age decreasing over time.[59] This average age range is similar to the ranges (twenties to early thirties) seen in other samples of Islamist militants from the United Kingdom, continental Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.[60] The sample sizes are small, making it difficult to identify a firm trend, but there also appears to an increasing number of Canadian converts who participate in jihadi militancy—from just one before the September 11, 2001 attacks to four after that date.[61]

Assessing the religiosity of these individuals is difficult due to lack of information, but some tentative conclusions are possible.[62] Poulin, Clairmont, and the Gordon brothers were all converts, while others, including Shirdon and possibly Abd al-Qadir, were newly religious. The available information indicates that Poulin, Clairmont, the Gordon brothers, and many other Canadian foreign fighters had limited knowledge about Islam, particularly its diverse historical, literary, theological, and legal heritages. This evidence suggests further avenues for research, perhaps on the commonality of such patterns among other groups of foreign fighters or the impact of educational campaigns on the flow of foreign fighters.

In the meantime, it is possible that the number of Canadians attempting to join the Islamic State or other jihadi groups in Iraq or Syria may decline. These Canadians face tighter surveillance by the authorities and the confiscation of their passports, making it difficult to travel. The Islamic State also continues to lose territory in Iraq, which will likely further impede it from living up to the grandiose claims of its media campaign and make it a less attractive group for prospective foreign fighters.

Christopher Anzalone is a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His research focuses on political Islam, including contemporary jihadi movements, Shi’ite Islam and contemporary Shi’ite social movements, as well as political violence in comparative perspective, the social and ideological construction of jihadi narratives of martyrdom, and Muslim visual cultures.

[1] On the ease of access to the battlefront in Syria, and by extension Iraq, as a possible factor for high mobilization numbers of Europeans, see the Project on Middle East Political Science interview with Thomas Hegghammer, “POMEPS Conversations 32,” January 20, 2014.

[2] The timing of travel is often significant. In previous cases, such as Somalia, individuals who traveled earlier were seemingly driven by different factors than those individuals who went later, particularly in regard to their ideological affinity with al-Shabab. From 2007 to January 2009, when the Ethiopian military still occupied parts of Somalia, nationalism seems to have played an important role in the decisions of foreign fighters. Later foreign fighters appear to have had more specifically ideological motives, rather than wanting to simply join an effective organization.

[3] Colin Freeze and Joe Friesen, “Why the Canadian Pipeline to al-Shabab has Dried Up,” The Globe and Mail, September 30, 2013.

[4] Public Safety Canada, “2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada,” p. 30, Aaron Zelin; “ICSR Insight: Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise among Western Europeans,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, December 17, 2013; Michelle Shephard, “Canadians Hurrying to Syria in Record Numbers to Join Rebels,” Toronto Star, August 23, 2013; Amarnath Amarasingam, “Canadian Foreign Fighters in Syria: An Overview,” Jihadology, March 4, 2015. The high-end estimate of up to 100 Canadian foreign fighters was repeated on January 15, 2014 by Abu Turab al-Muhajir (the Emigrant), a Twitter user claiming to be one of them. See “Canadian ‘Martyred’ while Fighting in Syria, Jihadist Says,” QMI Agency, January 17, 2014.

[5] Public Safety Canada, “2014 Public Report,” p. 11, p. 17. Estimates of the number of Canadians fighting in Syria and, later, Iraq, also come from non-governmental sources, such as documentary filmmaker Bilal Abdul Kareem, who interviewed fighters from various Islamist rebel groups in Syria in 2013. He noted in a September 2013 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) that he met 20–30 Canadian fighters during his time in Syria. See CBC News, “Syria Conflict Attracts Canadians to Fight on Front Line,” September 4, 2013. See also the article’s accompanying video report, “Canadians Fighting in Syria.” American photographer Matthew Schrier, who was imprisoned for seven months in 2013 by Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo, also reported being interrogated in fluent English by three masked individuals whom he believed to be Canadians. See “US Photojournalist Recounts Horror of Captivity after Escaping al-Qaeda in Syria,” Agence France-Presse, August 23, 2013; “American Photographer Escapes Syrian Islamist Torturers: Paper,” Reuters, August 23 2013; C.J. Chivers, “American Tells Odyssey as Prisoner of Syrian Rebels,” The New York Times, August 22 2013, and Michelle Shephard, “Canadians Hurrying in Record Numbers to Join Rebels,” Toronto Star, August 23, 2013

[6] Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Somalia and Al Shabaab.”

[7] This description was coined by Thomas Hegghammer. See: Stefan Binder, “Interview: Syrien: Humanitäre Helfer mit Kalaschnikow,” Der Standard, February 13, 2014. Jihadi rebel groups operating in northern Syria have set up, according to British government officials, fronts whose members pose as aid workers in order to facilitate the travel of foreign fighters into Syria, see Anthony Lloyd, Alex Christie-Miller, and Michael Evans, “Jihadists Using Aid Agencies as Cover to Join Syria Fight,” The Times, February 10, 2014.

[8] Libération, “Je suis allé en Syrie pour racheter mes péchés,” February 12, 2014, and Charlotte Boitiaux, “Confessions of a French Jihadist in Syria,” France24, February 13, 2014

[9] The framing of the current conflicts in Syria and Iraq in eschatological/apocalyptic terms can be seen most clearly in the naming of the Islamic State’s English language e-magazine, Dabiq, and the name of an affiliated media organization, the Al-Amaq News Agency. Both names are those of places mentioned in Sunni hadith about locations of a final great battle with “Rome,” which is today often interpreted by jihadis as referring to “Christendom” generally.

[10] CBC News, “Syria Conflict Attracts Canadians to Fight on Front Line,” September 4, 2013, CBC News, “Andre Poulin, Jihadi from Timmins, Ont., Confirmed Dead in Syria,” January 16, 2014; ICI Radio-Canada, “André Poulin, un autre Canadien djihadiste tué en Syrie selon CBC, January 16, 2014; The Canadian Press, “Canadian Man Killed Last August in Syrian Conflict: Report,” January 17, 2014; and The Canadian Press, “Another Canadian Reported to Have Been Killed while Fighting in Syria,” January 17, 2014.

[11] CBC News, “Andre Poulin, Jihadi from Timmins, Ont., Confirmed Dead in Syria,” January 16, 2014, and ICI Radio-Canada, “André Poulin, un autre Canadien djihadiste tué en Syrie selon CBC,” January 16, 2014. Photographs of Poulin’s body following the battle were tweeted on March 20 and March 21, 2014 by Twitter user “Abu Bakr al-Muhajir,” who claimed to be a Canadian foreign fighter in Syria. Al-Muhajir confirmed that Poulin had died during the battle for the airbase.

[12] Channel 4, “Britons Fighting with Syria’s Jihadi ‘Band of Brothers’,” June 14, 2013.

[13] CBC News, “Andre Poulin, Jihadi from Timmins, Ont., Confirmed Dead in Syria,” January 16, 2014, and ICI Radio-Canada, “André Poulin, un autre Canadien djihadiste tué en Syrie selon CBC,” January 16, 2014. These rumors were confirmed in a film released by the Islamic State in July 2014, Al-Ghuraba: The Chosen Few from Different Lands.

[14] He converted sometime between late 2008 and early 2009, just after turning 20. See CTV News, “Another Canadian Man Dies Fighting in Syria,” January 17, 2014. Poulin confirmed that he had converted six years before in the Islamic State film Al-Ghuraba: The Chosen Few from Different Lands.

[15] Ibid., “Andre Poulin, Jihadi from Timmins, Ont., Confirmed Dead in Syria.”

[16] Ibid. Poulin posted about his legal troubles online, describing some of the things he was accused of. These included threatening to blow up a Timmins gas station. He also had been arrested for making death threats after he was caught having an affair with the common-law wife of a man in whose house he was then living in, harassment, theft, and carrying a weapon illegally.

[17] Ibid., “Canadian ‘Martyred’ while Fighting in Syria, Jihadist Says”, QMI Agency, and Michael S. Schmidt, “Canadian Killed in Syria Lives On as Pitchman for Jihadis: ISIS Uses Andre Poulin, a Convert to Islam, in Recruitment Video,” The New York Times July 15, 2014

[18] Islamic State film, Al-Ghuraba: The Chosen Few from Different Lands, July 2014. Poulin, when speaking about the rewards from God that await emigrants, notes that it is Ramadan at the time of recording, suggesting that it was recorded during Ramadan in 2013, which fell in July and early August.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Jean-Marie Yambayamba, “Un jeune Calgarien tué en Syrie après s’être rallié à un groupe djihadiste,” ICI Radio-Canada, 15 January, 2014, and Fadi al-Haruni, “Death of a Canadian Jihadi in Syria,” Radio Canada International, January 15, 2014 .

[23] The Huffington Post Alberta, “Damian Clairmont Dead: Calgary Islam Convert Killed Fighting in Syria,” 15 January, 2014 and CBC News, “Damian Clairmont Killed Fighting with al-Qaeda-linked Rebels in Syria,” and Postmedia News, “Canadian Man Fighting against Regime ‘Executed’ by Other Rebels: Report,” January 16, 2014; Nick Logan, “Calgary Man Damian Clairmont Reportedly Killed Fighting in Syria,” Global News, January 15, 2014; Stewart Bell, “‘It’s between Me and God’: How a Calgary High School Dropout Joined Syria’s Civil War,” National Post, July 12, 2014 .

[24] Stewart Bell, “Canadian Killed in Syria: Calgary Man, 22, Joined Fight after Converting to Islam,” National Post, January 15, 2014.

[25] Stewart Bell, “‘It’s between Me and God’: How a Calgary High School Dropout Joined Syria’s Civil War,” National Post, July 12, 2014; Stewart Bell, “‘He was a sitting target’: Mother of Canadian Muslim Convert says Sons Recruited into Syrian Conflict from Calgary Mosque,” National Post, June 20, 2013.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Stewart Bell, “‘It’s between Me and God’: How a Calgary High School Dropout Joined Syria’s Civil War.”

[28] Ibid.

[29] Postmedia News, “Canadian Man Fighting against Regime ‘Executed’ by Other Rebels: Report,” January 16, 2014, and Stewart Bell, “Alberta High School Dropout Explains Why He, and Many Others, Have Gone to Fight in Syria,” National Post, September 26, 2013.

[30] Bell, “‘It’s between Me and God’: How a Calgary High School Dropout Joined Syria’s Civil War.”

[31] He last called her on June 22, 2013 and had become, according to his mother, even angrier. He also, she said, “became increasingly angry about Canada, increasingly determined to be in Syria fighting.” CBC News, “Damian Clairmont Killed Fighting with al-Qaeda-linked Rebels in Syria” and Bell, “‘It’s between Me and God’: How a Calgary High School Dropout Joined Syria’s Civil War.”

[32] His Twitter account, which has since been suspended, was:

[33] and

[34] Murray Brewster and Ben Makuch, “Calgary Man Killed in Syria Prompts Warning on Homegrown Radicals,” The Canadian Press, January 15, 2014.

[35] For example: Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, “Interests, Ideas, and Islamist Outreach in Egypt,” Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach, (ed) Quintan Wiktorowicz, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004, pp. 231–249 and Donatella della Porta, “Recruitment Processes in Clandestine Political Organizations: Italian Left-Wing Terrorism,” International Social Movement Research, Vol. 1: From Structure to Action: Comparing Social Movement Research Across Cultures, (ed) Bert Klandermans, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Sidney Tarrow, London, JAI Press, 1988.

[36] Stewart Bell, “Canadian ISIS Member’s Online ‘Wake Up Call’ Urges Muslims to Follow Example of Calgary Suicide Bomber,” National Post, June 16, 2014.

[37] CBC News, “Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary Brothers, Join Ranks of Canadians Fighting for ISIS,” August 29, 2014.

[38] Islamic State film, They Hear You, O’ Muslims, April 2014. He was not identified by name or nationality, though he spoke in English.

[39] CBC News, “Farah Mohamed Shirdon of Calgary Fighting for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” June 18, 2014.

[40] Shirdon tweeted on everything from his desire for martyrdom and the inability of his parents to prevent him from engaging in military action to calls for other Canadians to join the Islamic State. His account has since been suspended, but the author has recorded and saved many of his tweets. His former account was:

[41] CBC News, “Farah Mohamed Shirdon of Calgary, Fighting for ISIS, Dead in Iraq, Reports Say,” August 15, 2014. and Bryan Passifume, “Calgary Jihadi May Not Have Been Killed in Iraq,” QMI Agency, September 12, 2014.

[42] Jessica Hume, “Canadian ISIS Fighter: Headed Down Dark Path,” QMI Agency, August 26, 2014.

[43] Andrew Duffy and Meghan Hurley, “From JMag to Jihad John: The Radicalization of John Maguire,” Ottawa Citizen, February 7, 2015 .

[44] Islamic State film, Message of a Mujahid 5: Abu Anwar al-Kanadi, December, 2014.

[45] Maguire specifically mimicked or copied a message from al-Awlaki featured in AQAP’s eulogy video for the preacher, The Martyr of Da‘wa, December 2011. Similarities or outright paraphrasing or citation includes Maguire’s urging of non-Muslim viewers to read the Qur’an themselves in order to determine its validity, warning Muslims against trusting promises of Western governments that the war is not one against Muslims, and even his closing, “peace be upon those who follow the guidance.”

[46] Stewart Bell and Meghan Hurley, “Mother Mourns Ottawa Jihadi Maguire, Believed Killed in Syria,” Ottawa Citizen, January 14, 2015; Bill Dunphy and Nicole O’Reilly, “Hamilton Family Fears Son Killed Fighting for Islamic State in Syria,” The Hamilton Spectator, September 25, 2014 .

[47] CBC News, “‘Toronto 18’ Member Ali Mohamed Dirie was under Strict Court Order,” September 26, 2013 .

[48] Ibid., CTV News, “Toronto 18 Member Killed Fighting in Syria,” September 25, 2013; CBC News, “‘Toronto 18’ Member Ali Mohamed Dirie Reportedly Died in Syria,” September 25, 2013; and The Canadian Press, “Toronto 18 Plotter says He’s Changed,” September 13, 2010. For his role in procuring and smuggling weapons for the plotters, Dirie received a seven-year prison sentence in 2009, but was given credit for five years of pre-trial custody and paroled in October 2011. He served his two years imprisonment in Canada’s highest maximum security prison, the Special Handling Unit, in the province of Quebec. At a parole hearing in 2010, Dirie claimed that while he still opposed Canada’s then-involvement in Afghanistan, he no longer subscribed to violence and wanted to find peaceful and political ways to express his opposition.

[49] CBC News, “‘Toronto 18’ Member Ali Mohamed Dirie Reportedly Died in Syria.”

[50] Kurt Pelda, “Fodder for the Front: German Jihadists on Syria’s Battlefields,” Der Spiegel, April 30, 2013.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] CTV News, “Six Young Montrealers Believed to Be Fighting for ISIS in Syria,” February 27, 2015, and Hugo Joncas, “Deux derniers djihadistes allégués identifies,” March 1, 2015.

[54] Joncas, “Deux derniers djihadistes allégués identifies.”

[55] Alan Woods, “Tough Terror Laws Won’t Stop Canadians from Fleeing to Islamic State, says Adil Charkaoui,” The Toronto Star, February 27, 2015, and Steve Rukavina, “Collège de Rosemont severs ties with Adil Charkaoui group,” CBC News, April 16, 2015 .

[56] Islamic State e-magazine, Dabiq, issue 5, November 2014, p. 37, and issue December 6, 2014, pp. 3-5.

[57] Islamic State, Dabiq, issue 5, pp. 36-37. The Islamic State issued even stronger claims on having influenced Man Haron Monis’ hostage-taking in a Sydney café, connecting him to the militant group due to his bay‘a to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and describing him as a mujahid engaged in jihad in the path of God. Islamic State, Dabiq, issue 6, p. 4.

[58] Al-Shabab films, Woolwich: It’s an Eye for an Eye, October 2013 and The Westgate Siege: Retributive Justice, February 2015, and Christopher Anzalone, “The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab’s Media and Insurgent ‘Journalism’”, openDemocracy, 16 November, 2011. Al-Shabab is keenly aware of the power of the news media and the 24-hour news cycle and has frequently designed its media operations to take advantage of the need for sources by journalists, such as during the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi in September 2013. See Christopher Anzalone, “The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab’s Media Strategy,” CTC Sentinel 6, no. 10 (October, 2013), pp. 1-6.

[59] Sam Mullins, ““Global Jihad”: The Canadian Experience,” Terrorism and Political Violence 25, no. 5 (2013): pp. 734–776, p. 744.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Mullins, “’Global Jihad’: The Canadian Experience,” p. 746. This was out of a sample of 35 cases in the pre-September 11 period and 29 cases in the post-September 11 period.

[62] It is also difficult to define religiosity or piety, though both are often presented in accounts of Muslim foreign fighters, particularly in the news media, as being sufficient explanations of individuals’ decisions to engage in militant activism.

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