Canadians in Algeria attack were young, middle class: CBC

Tue Apr 2, 2013 4:09pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren and Mark Hosenball

OTTAWA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two men from English-speaking Canada who took part in an attack by militants on a gas plant in Algeria in January were in their early twenties and from middle-class backgrounds, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp said on Tuesday in an account that was later confirmed by U.S. government sources.

Around 70 people, including the two Canadians, died when Algerian troops stormed the Tigantourine desert gas plant and ended the siege. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said last month it had identified two suspects but gave no details.

CBC named the two men as former high school friends Xristos Katsiroubas, 22, and Ali Medlej, described as being about 24. Both came from London, a town in the central Canadian province of Ontario.

The RCMP declined to comment. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service spy agency, which has repeatedly warned of the dangers of radicalized Canadians traveling abroad to cause trouble, did not respond to a request for comment.

But a U.S. government source said U.S. agencies had received information about the Canadian investigation and believed that the CBC report correctly identified the Canadian militants.

Security experts in North America and Europe said that while Canadians traveling abroad to fight with Islamic militants is not a new phenomenon, the fact that men from English-speaking Ontario had joined up with militants in what is traditionally a French-speaking part of Africa was unusual.

U.S. and European counter-terrorism officials have expressed growing concern about the number of English-speaking recruits traveling to dangerous or remote areas in such countries as Pakistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen to train or fight with militant groups linked to Al Qaeda.

The officials say they worry that such militants will return to their home countries with the motivation and skills to plot attacks.   Continued...

 
An Algerian soldier stands at a checkpoint near a road sign indicating 10 km (6 miles) to a gas installation in Tigantourine (sometimes spelled Tiguentourine), the site where Islamist militants held foreigners hostage according to the Algerian interior ministry, in Amena January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina (ALGERIA - Tags: ENERGY POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)