National Post reporter Stewart Bell has played a central role in alerting Canadians to the threat posed by foreign and Canadian-born terrorists in Canada. His previous book Cold Terror (BiC, Sept 04) explored the activities of Tamil Tigers, Sikh separatists and Islamic militants who had found, in Canada, a comfortable base from which to wage their murderous struggles. In his latest book Bell focuses on the career of Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, whose family, like that of a large number of other Kuwaitis, obtained immigrant status in Canada while retaining strong links to Kuwait. In fact, for many of those from the Gulf States it is the Canadian passport and access to Canadian health and education that attracts, not the desire to move permanently to a country whose climate and economic opportunities are not overwhelmingly alluring.
There is remarkably little published on Canada's rapidly growing Muslim community, in sharp contrast to the attention European writers have given to the position of Muslims on that continent. Much of the most insightful writing on radical Islam emerges from France, where authors like Gilles Kepel, Olivier Roy and Farhad Khosrokhavar have contributed significantly to our understanding of why Muslims born and raised in the West might not only be attracted to militant jihad, against the values and societies in which they were raised, but are increasingly defining the ideological thrust and tactics of global jihad. Bell's account of this Canadian-raised terrorist fits well with the pattern recognised by European writersa young man uncomfortable in the permissive West who finds in a murderous interpretation of Islam his own salvation.
Jabarah's family immigrated to St. Catherines, where, to comply with the investor program through which they had gained entry, Mohammed's father purchased a gas station. It was from St. Catherines, via frequent trips back to Kuwait, Pakistan and other centres of Islamic militancy, that the young Jabarah would become a leading player in Al Qaeda and global jihad. Bell not only provides a comprehensive account of the trajectory that took Jabarah to the heart of Islamist terrorism, he offers an insightful account of the way in which Al Qaeda and similar groups recruit, nurture and transform young male Muslims into terrorists, eager to kill and die for the global struggle. The transformation of a young manconcerned at the real or alleged injustices experienced by Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq and elsewhereinto an operative prepared to carefully plan mass murder, targeting those who might have only the remotest connection with the perceived grievances, takes time.
Jabarah's journey took him from Kuwait, through Pakistan into Afghanistan. He proved an adept pupil, coming first in his snipers' class and being selected to train as a personal bodyguard to bin Laden, but Jabarah's Canadian passport and familiarity with the West enabled him to be singled out for other tasks, notably the identification of bombing targets in the Philippines and Singapore. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has an unenviable record in counterespionage, but in Jabarah's case, involvement in local Islamist fundraising activities in St. Catherines had alerted CSIS to the potential threat. Following 9/11, the agency's interest in Mohammed and his brother, Abdul Rahman, another terrorist recruit, intensified.
The discovery of the plot in Singapore caused Jabarah to flee. Ultimately, he arrived in Oman, where again the group he was involved with was apprehended, this time with Jabarah. The Omanis had little direct evidence against Jabarah, and, given his Canadian citizenship, were unwilling to extradite him to the US. Finally it was agreed that CSIS would collect him and take him back to Canada. The position of CSIS was tenuous. Bell notes that while Jabarah had "trained with Al Qaeda and helped organize mass casualty suicide bombings in Southeast Asia," he had broken no Canadian lawssuch was Canada's level of preparedness. After some weeks of discussion, CSIS persuaded Jalabar to agree to go voluntarily to the US, plead guilty to various offences and provide information in return for leniency in sentencing. Jabarah remains in detention, but he is no longer cooperating with American authorities. His family, together with Canadian sympathisers, continue to portray Jabarah as a victim of unscrupulous Canadian intelligence services and demand that the government secure his return to Canada. Martin Loney
(Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada
From the Inside Flap
In the summer of 2001, a young Canadian sat with Osama bin Laden near Kandahar and swore an oath: He would die for Al Qaeda. His name was Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, and he was 19 years old. The Martyr's Oath tells the remarkable true story of how the son of middle-class immigrants from Kuwait was radicalized, recruited and trained to be an Al Qaeda terrorist.
After meeting Jabarah's distraught parents at their suburban home, awards-winning investigative journalist Stewart Bell set out to answer the question at the heart of today's global threat: how does someone become a terrorist? Bell retraces Mohammed's path from a small town near Niagara Falls, Ontario to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia and, Finally a prison cell in Manhattan.
Along the way, he guides readers through the world of Muslim militancy, a world inhabited by firebrand preachers, terrorist recruiters, training-camp instructors, clandestine operatives and the intelligence agents on their trail. It was a world that Jabarah had known since the age of 14, when he decided to become an Islamic holy warrior. By 18, he was training in Afghanistan, and a year later, he was in Southeast Asia plotting to blow up American and Israeli embassies.
As he pieces together Jabarah's life from interviews and top-secret documents, and revels for the first time the inside details of the international intelligence operation that6 ended his Al Qaeda apprenticeship, Bell sheds light on one of the most disturbing trends in modern terrorism: the growing number of youths in North America and Europe who are being drawn into violent radical groups.