The number of Canadian citizens who have traveled overseas to join extremist organizations such as the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group has grown over the past months, a new government report says.
The 2016 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, released by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Thursday, gave an assessment of the terror threat landscape in 2015 and early 2016 across Canada.
As of the end of 2015, about 180 “individuals with a nexus to Canada” were suspected of participating in terrorism-related activities overseas, up from 130 the previous year, it said.
The report noted that more than half were thought to be in Turkey, Iraq or Syria.
Nearly 20 percent of Canada’s extremist travelers were women, the report also said.
Lorne Dawson, co-director of the University of Waterloo’s Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, said the participation of women in terrorist organizations in itself is not new, but the increase in their numbers in Canada is noteworthy.
According to the report, “extremist travelers” who are suspected of traveling abroad for the purpose of militant activity, pose a range of security concerns for Canada.
Militant groups, it said, could use their “skills, experience and relationships” to plan attacks in Canada. Recent terror killings in France and Belgium were carried out by former Daesh militants who had returned to Europe, the report noted.
Violent extremist ideologies espoused by terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Qaeda continue to appeal to certain individuals in Canada, according to the report.
It raised questions about how Canadian authorities are dealing with dozens of the returnees. None of those who have come back to Canada from Syria and Iraq have been charged with terrorism offences.
The report comes over two weeks after a failed Daesh-inspired bombing in Ontario.
The lone suspect, identified as the 23-year-old Aaron Driver, was killed in gunfire after heavily-armed police raided his house in Strathroy, a community in the southeastern province of Ontario.
Canadian media, citing an internal government memo, added that the suspect was planning to use an improvised explosive device to carry out a bomb attack in a public area.
The influx of foreign militants into Syria has prompted warnings from several European governments in recent months.
A large number of Europeans and Westerners have gone to Syria to fight against the Damascus government. Fears are now growing that the militants, trained in Syria, may carry out terrorist attacks once they return home.
Jean-Paul Laborde, UN assistant secretary general, said in early July that approximately 30,000 foreign terrorists were operating in Syria and Iraq, warning that the militants posed threats to their home countries upon their return.