Mark Collins – A Canadian, ISIS, Bangladesh and Terror…and Earlier Calgary

Further to 2) at this post before the Dhaka massacre,

Islamist Butchery in Bangladesh–With a Canadian ISIS Connection

more background on the local ISIS leader, a Canadian, just killed in Bangladesh:

Canadian shot by Bangladesh police linked to Calgary terrorists

A Canadian man killed by Bangladesh police on Saturday for his suspected role in plotting a deadly terrorist attack at a Dhaka café was linked to a cluster of radicals from Calgary who are collectively responsible for more than 70 deaths overseas [see links at the end of this post].

Bangladeshi officials believe Tamim Chowdhury, 30, was the architect behind last month’s attack that killed 24 in the name of the Islamic State movement. Gunmen stormed a popular bakery, taking hostages, separating out those who identified as Muslim from the rest and executing a number of patrons for being foreign non-Muslims.

A University of Toronto student, Tahmid Hasib Khan, was at the bakery during the terror attack and is still being detained by Bangladeshi authorities. He has not yet been charged and the Canadian government is in contact with its Bangladeshi counterpart, but says it is limited in what it can do for non-citizens. His family has maintained his innocence.

While it is known that Mr. Chowdhury, a Canadian-Bangladeshi citizen, returned to Bangladesh three years ago, little has been made public about his connection to other radicalized individuals inside of Canada.

Related: Detained University of Toronto student formally arrested in Dhaka

The Globe and Mail has learned he spent time with what’s known as the “Calgary cluster,” which has been responsible for at least two large terror attacks. An imam who confirmed the connection and has been working actively to combat radicalization in Calgary says the federal government must focus resources on supporting community leaders and grassroots initiatives as it prepares to launch a new deradicalization initiative.

“Always have a counternarrative,” said Imam Navaid Aziz [more here], discussing the steps that can be taken to blunt the formative period of an extremist. “[Having] people that are willing to engage and debate with them is very, very important.”

Almost a decade ago, Mr. Chowdhury lived in Windsor, Ont., where he attended high school and university, visiting Bangladesh only a handful of times in his youth…

In 2012, Mr. Aziz moved west, taking a job at the Islamic Information Society of Calgary [website here]. After leading his first Friday sermon, he was surprised to see Mr. Chowdhury, who had also moved to Alberta to work for an oil or engineering firm. Mr Chowdhury, who pretended not to know the imam, was beside Damian Clairmont, a convert to Islam who would later gain notoriety as a Canadian terrorist killed overseas, said Mr. Aziz.

Both Mr. Chowdhury and Mr. Clairmont were part of a study group at the 8th and 8th Musalla, a prayer room in downtown Calgary frequented by at least six Canadians who have fought for extremist groups. Another member, Salman Ashrafi, would go on to become a suicide bomber, killing 46 in Iraq. In a televised interview from Syria in 2014, Farah Mohamed Shirdon described himself as an Islamic State fighter and warned U.S. President Barack Obama that his group would plant the black flag of the group on the grounds of the White House. He then threw his Canadian passport into a fire. Other alleged members of the Calgary cluster include two brothers, Collin and Gregory Gordon, both killed in 2014 while fighting for the Islamic State…

Mr. Aziz’s recollections about Mr. Chowdhury being in Calgary align with the views of Amarnath Amarasingam, a professor at the University of Waterloo who specializes in radicalization and terrorism [more here–I have seen the Prof. speak and he knows his stuff]. He believes Mr Chowdhury may have also written a series of 2014 blog posts using the name Abu Dujana al-Muhajir. The blog eulogizes Mr. Clairmont and Mr. Ashrafi after they were killed fighting in the Middle East…

That Calgary connection:

Calgary Jihadi Stampede

Syria/Iraq: Calgary Jihadi Stampede, Part 2...

One does wonder how much intelligence Canadian security agencies have on Mr Chowdhury.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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