MONTREAL (Reuters) - A 15-year-old charged with terrorism-related offences in Canada was initially arrested for armed robbery in October before authorities realized he had planned to travel abroad to join jihadist fighters, police said on Thursday.
The teenager, who has not been named, is the youngest person and the first minor to face such charges in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Reuters.
His arrest follows October attacks by suspected jihadist sympathizers in Montreal and Ottawa that killed two Canadian soldiers. Both of those attackers, including one who launched an attack on the Canadian Parliament, were shot dead by security officers.
Montreal police said they arrested the boy in October after he allegedly robbed a convenience store with an “edged weapon,” then fled the scene. No one was hurt during the robbery.
Montreal Police agreed to share information about the teen with Quebec provincial police and the RCMP once they realized he had become radicalized, said RCMP spokesman Luc Thibault.
The teen was charged on Wednesday amid allegations he had committed the robbery “for the benefit, or at the direction, of a terrorist group.”
“This is a reminder that terrorism remains a very real threat to Canadians,” said Jason Tamming, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.
The RCMP said the teenager had allegedly planned to leave Canada to join “terrorist activity abroad” but did not identify the group to which the teenager was allegedly connected.
Montreal’s La Presse newspaper said he had Facebook links to Martin Couture-Rouleau, the man who attacked two Canadian soldiers near Montreal in October, killing one.
The newspaper said police also found jihadist videos on the boy’s laptop and the teen had told police Canada was a country of infidels. He allegedly told authorities he wanted to use the money from the robbery to buy an airplane ticket to a country under Islamic law, but did not say which one, La Presse said.
The October attacks came after Canada sent warplanes to the Middle East to take part in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
The RCMP is tracking 93 people it considers high-risk travelers, who they fear could try to leave the country to join militant groups abroad. Most of those are Canadian citizens.
Reporting by Allison Lampert; additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa; Editing by Amran Abocar and David Gregorio