Young would-be jihadist on trial in Montreal linked to attacker who shot soldiers

—  The Oct. 22 attack horrified Canadians — one soldier lay dead in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, another was injured and police killed their attacker, Martin Couture-Rouleau.

That same evening,  a 15-year-old armed robbery suspect in a youth detention centre north of Montreal told investigators the actions of Couture Rouleau, a man he described as his new friend, were “well done.”

Killing civilians would have sent a clearer message, “but soldiers are still good.”

The boy, now on trial on charges of aiding a terrorist group and attempting to leave to join a terrorist group, had met Couture-Rouleau, 25, online a month earlier and was carrying his phone number when arrested.

The boy said they had had dozens of conversations over Facebook and Twitter and at least one over the phone. He said he had come across Couture-Rouleau’s Facebook page and contacted him. They tried to meet in person once, but signals got crossed.

He swore he had no advance knowledge of Couture-Rouleau’s terror plot, but deduced the attack was a response to “the actions of Canada against the Islamic State (of Iraq & the Levant).”

Related‘I understand Islam better than you’: Teen facing terror charges saw Canada as ‘land of war’

“If you get out of here tomorrow morning, are you going to do the same thing?” RCMP investigator Brahim Soussi asked at one point.

“I’m not answering. I am remaining silent,” the boy replied.

Questioned by Soussi and Sûreté du Québec investigator Simon Desbiens, he said Couture-Rouleau was the only person he knew in the Montreal area who practised “authentic Islam.”

In their view, Muslims should only live in countries that follow Islamic law, and Canada’s involvement in the military campaign against ISIL was a declaration of war against all Muslims.

When Desbiens told the boy police were trying to ensure another attack did not happen, he responded, “It’s going to happen. It’s certain.”

He cited a recent ISIL communiqué calling for attacks on members of the coalition waging the bombing campaign in Iraq.

“By fighting the Islamic State, it’s war on Islam and Muslims,” he said in the interview, a recording of which was played in court Thursday.

The teen had been arrested three days earlier for holding up a convenience store at knifepoint.

His father had called police after finding his son’s backpack hidden in their yard with a knife and a bag of cash inside. He told police he was worried his radicalized son was planning to leave the country to fight with ISIL.

The day after the arrest, the father called an RCMP investigator to report he had found a paper with an unusual telephone number in the pocket of his son’s jeans. The number belonged to Couture-Rouleau, the court heard Thursday.

Couture-Rouleau’s murderous rampage was still fresh when Desbiens and RCMP investigator Brahim Soussi arrived to interview the boy. Police wanted to know whether Couture-Rouleau was part of a terrorist cell or acted alone, and they thought the boy could help them.

“It was urgent,” Desbiens testified Thursday.

After reading the boy his rights and informing him he was not obliged to talk to them, Soussi showed him news articles about the attack.

“You are at a turning point in your life,” he said. “Because that is not a robbery in a dépanneur. It’s a lot more serious.”

At the beginning of the interview, which lasted nearly three hours, the boy was cagey with the investigators. He initially denied knowing Couture-Rouleau, before acknowledging their extensive conversations.

He said they spoke mostly about religion, but he admitted the week of his arrest, he had asked the older man for a $50 loan. He wanted to buy a knife so he could rob another convenience store, he said.

He told the investigators the money would have been used to buy a plane ticket so he could leave for “Islamic land.” He considered living in Canada a sin because it does not follow Islamic law.

Even then, detained for his robbery, his passport seized by police, he still dreamed of leaving Canada. “I will wait to get my passport back,” he said.

Lawyers for the boy, who turned 16 this year, are seeking to have the Oct. 20 police interview ruled inadmissible as evidence on the grounds his rights were violated.

Wednesday, Judge Dominique Wilhelmy of Quebec Court’s youth division denied their request to have an earlier interview thrown out.

About Graeme Hamilton