Son of ex-Ottawa cleric who urged youths to ‘take part in jihad’ dies fighting government in Libya: reports

TORONTO — The son of a former Ottawa cleric who encouraged Libyans to “take part in jihad” was reportedly killed in an armed clash with government forces in Benghazi over the weekend.

The death of Owais Egwilla, described as a former Ottawa university student, was announced on social media accounts affiliated with Libyan fighters, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The posts said he had died in a battle against the “infidel forces” of Libyan Gen. Khalida Haftar. The Observer reported Egwilla was a member of a militia called the .

“It is one of the extremist groups,” Ambassador Fathi Baja, Libya’s envoy to , said Sunday. He said the youth’s father was Abdu Albasset Egwilla, a Libyan-Canadian religious cleric.

His father took him to Libya. In fact his father pushed him

“His father took him to Libya. In fact his father pushed him,” the diplomat said in an interview. He said the cleric had used his pulpit to encourage youths to take up arms in Libya and elsewhere.

The Al-Mukhtar brigade is affiliated with Ansar Al-Sharia, which is fighting to impose Islamic law in Libya. Al-Mukhtar is led by a former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group member linked to Osama bin Laden.

Pictures on the young man’s Facebook page showed him posing with the cleric and in settings that could be Canadian. A photo apparently taken after his death was circulated online.

“We are aware of reports that a Canadian citizen has passed away in Libya,” said Diana Khaddaj, a Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman. She provided no details but said stopping so-called foreign fighters was a government priority.

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The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Michel Coulombe, was expected to be asked about the number of Canadians active in terrorism abroad when he testifies Monday at the Senate National Security and Defence committee.

About 180 extremists have left Canada to take part in overseas terrorism — 100 of them in Syria and Iraq alone, Coulombe told reporters recently. Another 60 are now back in Canada after taking part in extremist activities.

Baja said the Canadian government should be aware of the way youths are being encouraged to commit extremist violence, both overseas and close to home.

“Believe me, they should really open their eyes,” he said.

A declassified report by the Canadian government’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre said that in an August 2014 video, Abdu Albasset Egwilla “urged an audience of Libyan Islamist fighters to take part in jihad.

“Jihad today is simple and easily accessible, and does not require moving as in the past, as it was for Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

The report did not indicate whether Egwilla was aligned with any terrorist groups but said Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb “have called on Muslims to support the Islamist fighters.”

Libya has descended into another civil war since 2014 that has pitted government forces, Islamists and the Libyan offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against each other.

National Post

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