Stewart Bell | 26/09/13 | Last Updated: 26/09/13 4:15 PM ET
|Damian Clairmont of Calgary converted to Islam following a suicide attempt at age 17. He is now known as Mustafa Al-Gharib. After he left Canada last November, CSIS officers told his mother he had gone to Syria and was part of an extremist group they had been monitoring for two years.|
TORONTO— “I am where I am because I believe in something,” Damian Clairmont wrote from Syria, where the Alberta high-school dropout has spent the past ten months helping bring down the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
A Muslim convert who now calls himself Mustafa Al-Gharib, the 22-year-old is one of dozens of Canadians participating in the protracted conflict in Syria, which is now being called “the new Afghanistan” and the “epicentre of jihad.”
Also among those who made the trek there was Ali Dirie, a Somali-Canadian and former member of the Toronto 18 terror group that plotted to bomb downtown Toronto and storm the Parliament buildings to behead MPs in 2006.
A gun smuggler with a high school education who once called white people the “number one filthiest people on the face of the planet,” Dirie had claimed at his sentencing that he no longer believed in terrorism or violence.
Several sources confirmed, however, that after he was released from prison, Dirie left for Syria. He is suspected of having joined the al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusrah Front. Rumors he was recently killed have been circulating in Toronto but remain unverified.
Ray Boisvert, a former counter-terrorism chief at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the large number of Western fighters in Syria is partly a factor of communications technology, which has helped spread images of atrocities and heroic depictions of armed groups.
“Ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan by Western forces, we now have people with even greater access to the details of what’s going on, and have easier travel access to a conflict hot spot,” said Mr. Boisvert, President of the consulting firm I-SEC Integrated Strategies.
“And, frankly, because of the nature of this conflict, which will likely run for years, we’ll see a lot of ‘veterans’ likely return, just like the Afghan conflict. It simply has a lot of ‘ugly’ that will cause repercussions in the years to come, at home and abroad.”
Mr. Clairmont left Alberta for Syria last November. The RCMP and CSIS are investigating, his mother said. In exchanges with the National Post, he explained his decision in wholly religious terms, saying he was working towards the afterlife.
“The benefit for myself in terms of the worldly life is most certainly back in Canada where I could see my family, indulge in fornication and infidelity legally and limitlessly and stagger around poisoned on intoxicants and then lie to myself and the world about ‘Freedom’ and how fantastic it is,” the Nova Scotia-born Acadian wrote.
“After all that is what we were conditioned to believe since our school days, was it not?” he added. “Challenging those learned assumptions, questioning them and actually being willing to change yourself is always much harder to do. My doing so caused a search for truth and ended in a conclusion that Islam was the answer. With that came Islam’s concept of working for an afterlife that never ends … An eternity in Paradise cannot to traded for 70 years (if that) of this place.”
Read the rest here: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/26/alberta-high-school-dropout-explains-why-he-and-many-others-have-gone-to-fight-in-syria/