ISIL’s attempt to recruit First Nations man with brain injury on Twitter displays ‘nothing to lose’ strategy

TORONTO—Two days after a terrorist killed a soldier at the National War Memorial and ran into the Parliament Buildings, went onto Twitter to offer himself up to the and the Levant.

“Hey brother, I’m ready to fight and support ISIS till death,” Boissoneau, 30, wrote to a Canadian ISIL member in who uses the alias Abu Turaab al-Kanadi. “I’m a Canadian and I’m sick of the face (fake) politics here.”

The ISIL recruiters apparently believed they had found what they were looking for, a Canadian extremist willing to do what had done in Ottawa, a simple but headline grabbing strike from within.

They sent him a message on Twitter that said, “Who wants to do something to some top kaffirs (non-believers)?” They said they could get addresses. “Give me Canadian addresses,” Boissoneau responded. “I will ensure something happens.”

@AbuTuraaab Hey brother I'm ready to fight and support ISIS til death I'm a Canadian and am sick of all this face politics here.

— Dwayne Boissoneau (@dboissoneau1) October 24, 2014

The exchange was detected by the RCMP’s Tactical Internet Operational Support Unit and Boissoneau was arrested for uttering a threat. But the judge who heard the case last month found he was not really a terrorist after all.

According to the judge’s decision, the man ISIL was trying to recruit is a low-to-average functioning First Nations man from Longlac, Ont. who suffers from a childhood brain injury, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and did not attend high school.

He has been in trouble with the law since his teens and has a long criminal record linked to alcohol and drug use, according to the court decision, which called his interactions with ISIL naïve, unsophisticated and in keeping with his cognitive abilities.

Talking a certain way shows your willingness to take a risk, get on the radar, risk law enforcement attention, risk Twitter suspension

The incident, which has gone unreported until now, shows how ISIL recruiters have been prowling social media, trying to goad Canadians and citizens of other Western countries into committing acts of terrorism close to home.

Authorities believe that ISIL puts so much emphasis on efforts to incite extremist violence in the West that it has created a cell in Raqqa, Syria devoted to English-language radicalization. They also suspect that within that cell, a desk officer has been assigned specifically to radicalize Canadians.

The Boissoneau case demonstrates how haphazardly the system works. ISIL is not choosy. It will work with anyone who says the right things online. Boissoneau had likely caught their attention by writing things like “Death 2 America” and “I kill infidels.”

@ Abothaer1 @ DrA12325665 DEATH 2 AMERICA

— Dwayne Boissoneau (@dboissoneau1) August 28, 2014


— Dwayne Boissoneau (@dboissoneau1) August 28, 2014

“Talking a certain way shows your willingness to take a risk, get on the radar, risk law enforcement attention, risk Twitter suspension,” said Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam, who has been studying Canadian foreign fighters.

“They care about little beyond that in terms of qualifications,” said Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University’s Resilience Research Centre. “Al-Qaida and other groups used to vet guys for a long time. This new threat is very different. Recruiters overseas have nothing to lose.”

Boissoneau was not exactly a big player online. He has only one follower on Twitter, and he follows just 8 accounts — six of them female pop singers like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande, whom he told in a Tweet, “you are very gorgeous.”

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His Twitter account shows he began posting extremist-sounding messages in August 2014. On Oct. 13, he wrote: “God willing I will come and fight the cause.” After he wrote to ISIL about joining, another user asked him, “wanna free ticket?” “YEA,” he replied. Later, he added: “If I could afford it I’d be gone by now.”

“Canada and US will suffer wrath of IS,” he wrote to al-Kanadi, whose real name is Mohammad Ali, who lived in the Toronto area before joining ISIL. At the time, al-Kanadi was trying to provoke additional attacks in Canada, Tweeting, “strike them in their lands. Kill a kaffir and secure your place in Jannah (paradise).”

canada and US will suffer the wrath of [email protected]

— Dwayne Boissoneau (@dboissoneau1) November 6, 2014

Boissoneau was also exchanging Twitter messages with a British ISIL member named Reyaad Khan, who went by Abu Dujana and had also incite for attacks in Western countries until he was killed in a targeted drone strike last August.

After Boissoneau’s arrest, he told police he’d never actually met a terrorist in person and “wasn’t that serious about going down there.” He said he was going through a rough time and just wanted to “test the system” to find out if the Canadian Security Intelligence Service “can actually detect stuff like that.”

He acknowledged he had looked into the cost of plane tickets to Turkey, and his sister said he was “curious about terrorism” but the judge said it appeared the real motive for was his online posts was to get a free plane ticket to Europe so he could visit his Hungarian girlfriend.

I will fight to the death sick of all this fake politics in US and [email protected]

— Dwayne Boissoneau (@dboissoneau1) November 6, 2014

Boissoneau pleaded guilty to threatening to cause death or bodily harm, as well as fraud and theft (his lawyer said he borrowed a friend’s bike and tried to pawn it). He was not charged with any terrorism offences but the Crown argued at sentencing that his actions had to be viewed in the context of global terrorism.

The pre-sentencing report described Boissoneau as “easily led and susceptible to substance abuse.” It said he was impulsive and “was not always able to fully explain his actions.” Nor did he “fully appreciate the gravity of his actions.”

The judge sentenced him to a year, partly because the threat was made at a time of public sensitivity about terrorism. Thunder Bay lawyer Michael Hargadon found that harsh given the facts about Boissoneau. He felt the Oct. 22, 2014 attack in Ottawa had overly influenced the decision. “I think everyone, to an extent, was caught up in what was happening at the time.”

Hargadon appealed and on Feb. 1 Justice Helen Pierce of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice cut the sentence in half, noting that his online posts “came only to the attention of a couple of terrorists anxious to recruit him and the police unit tasked with monitoring their conduct.”

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