May 20, 2015 / 2:23 PM / 5 years ago

10 Canadians arrested on suspicion of heading to join Middle East militants

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canadian police arrested 10 young people from Montreal suspected of wanting to leave the country to join militant Islamist groups in the Middle East, officials said on Wednesday.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the 10 were detained last weekend at Montreal’s international airport. No charges have been laid, and police declined to give details.

“We have reason to believe that the young Montrealers wanted to travel abroad to join jihadist groups,” RCMP spokesman Constable Erique Gasse said.

Police said the passports of all 10 people were confiscated. Four of the 10 were attending College de Maisonneuve, a Montreal college that came under scrutiny earlier this year when another four of its students disappeared from Quebec and are believed to have traveled to join Islamic State.

Montreal is the largest city in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Canada, like other Western nations, is trying to stem a flow of disaffected, mostly young, Muslims, who want to join movements such as Islamic State.

Quebec’s government says it will soon unveil a program to combat self-radicalization, a term used to describe those drawn to the militants.

Lise Theriault, Quebec’s minister of public safety, said the teens were arrested last weekend after their parents raised the alarm. She expressed concern that the detainees were born and raised in Quebec by immigrant parents, adding, “When their parents chose to come and live here, it’s because they wanted their children to have a better life.”

French-language public broadcaster Radio-Canada said some of those arrested wanted to fly to Syria via Turkey. It cited a lawyer for one detainee as saying the youth had been recruited over the Internet by someone promising “a better life.”

Last month, Canada’s spy agency said as many as 75 Canadians had gone to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria in the previous three or four months.

Canada’s Conservative government has introduced tough new legislation that would give police and security agencies more power to stop people going abroad to link up with Islamic State and similar movements.

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp that the weekend arrests “show us how much we have to remain vigilant on the terrorist threat (at home).”

Canada last year sent 70 special forces troops to help train Iraqi soldiers fight Islamic State, which took over swathes of Iraq and Syria last year. Canadian jets are taking part in U.S.-led bombing attacks against the group in Iraq and Syria.

Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Grant McCool, Leslie Adler and Frances Kerry

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