OTTAWA – The RCMP say the latest Ottawa man arrested on terrorism charges is linked to five others already charged in a terrorist conspiracy, and was also involved in a major 2011 bust that brought down the ringleader of a local terror network.
Police arrested Awso Peshdary, 25, Tuesday and charged him with participating in terrorism and facilitating terrorist activity, alleging he financed efforts to send homegrown jihadists to Syria to join the ranks of Islamic State fighters.
They also charged Khadar Khalib, 23, and John Maguire, 24, in absentia.
The Mounties said Peshdary conspired with Khalib and Maguire.
RCMP chief superintendent Jennifer Strachan also said the three men charged in Tuesday’s operation, dubbed Project Servant, were known to twin brothers Ashton and Carlos Larmond and Suliman Mohamed, who were all charged with terrorism-related offences in January. Carlos Larmond was picked up in Montreal after he attempted to board an international flight.
Calling the January arrests a “spinoff” investigation, Strachan said it is “quite likely there will be (other) spinoff investigations” and potentially more arrests.
“At some point during our investigation (into Project Servant) another network evolved,” said Strachan.
Strachan said the young men were known to each other and communicated largely through social networks.
“Communications were revealed between the accused and other unindicted associates,” said Strachan.
“The accused have posted photographs, videos and written comments on social media which provided evidence to demonstrate that they either supported or were active members of ISIS.”
Peshdary was already known to police and the courts.
He was arrested in Aug. 2011, but later released without charge as part of a massive investigation into an imminent threat to national security dubbed Project Samossa.
Hiva Alizadeh, said to be the ringleader of the group, was sentenced to 24 years, and Misbahuddin Ahmed was sentenced to 12 years for his part in the plot.
Court documents filed Tuesday show that investigators were once again on Peshdary’s trail a year after his release.
The Mounties began investigating Peshdary in November, 2012, when they say he conspired with John Maguire, and again in March 2014 when the RCMP say he conspired with Khadar Khalib.
RCMP Acting Superintendent James Malizia said Peshdary “provided financial support to facilitate travel to Syria.”
Khalib left Canada in late March 2014, and Maguire left in December 2012, both bound for Syria where they became known members of ISIS.
“Peshdary conspired with… and stayed in contact with Maguire, and together, they entered into a conspiracy to send other Canadians to Syria to join ISIS,” said Strachan.
Maguire was reportedly “martyred,” shortly after appearing in a now-infamous Islamic State propaganda video, but the Mounties say they have no evidence to confirm his death beyond a lone Jan. 14 tweet from the ISIS-linked Twitter account of Abu Saman.
“Although there were recent reports that he is deceased, we have no evidence at this point to confirm that information,” said Strachan.
Maguire’s mother, Patricia Earl, said she has not heard from her son since he angrily broke off a Skype call from Syria in August 2014.
Both Khalib and Maguire were charged in absentia with conspiring in terrorism activity, both at home and abroad, and arrest warrants were sent to Interpol.
“We continue to work actively with our domestic and international partners to return Khalib and Maguire to Canada so they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Strachan.
Calling the radicalization of Canada’s youth “a form of exploitation,” Malizia said protecting national security is “a shared responsibility” between police and an “active, resilient, informed community.”
“Through each terrorism-related charge we lay, and each arrest we make, we send a message: we won’t break our strong resolve to root out terrorist threats.”