Canadian police charge man with faking terrorist activity

An ISIS flag hangs in bombed-out militant headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, on Jan 20, 2017. PHOTO: NYTIMES

OTTAWA (NYTIMES) - Police in Canada have arrested a Toronto-area man who asserted he was an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) executioner, accusing him of perpetrating a hoax that he was involved in terrorist activities.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the man, Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, "claimed he travelled to Syria in 2016 to join the terrorist group ISIS and committed acts of terrorism."

The interviews he gave to media outlets, the national police force said, raised "public safety concerns amongst Canadians."

Sergeant Lucie Lapointe, a spokesperson for the Mounted Police, said that Chaudry was the person featured extensively in "Caliphate," a podcast by The New York Times, under the name Abu Huzayfah. In the podcast, he described in harrowing detail his role in executions.

The Times declined to discuss its sourcing.

"The uncertainty about Abu Huzayfah's story is central to every episode of Caliphate that featured him," Ms Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokesperson, said in a statement. She noted that one episode confirmed that Abu Huzayfah had misled the Times about the dates of his travel to Syria and the timeline of his radicalisation.

"The episode tells listeners what our journalists knew for sure and what was still unknown," she said.

But she said that the Times had used geolocation to place Huzayfah on the banks of the Euphrates river in Syria.

Chaudry's description of his terrorist activities created a political storm in Canada. Opposition members of Parliament pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to explain why Chaudry had not been arrested upon his return to Canada.

Under Canadian law, leaving the country to participate in terrorist activities is a crime.

Until Friday's (Sept 25) announcement of the arrest, however, police had said little about their investigation, which involved several other agencies.

The terrorism hoax charge that Chaudry faces is normally used to prosecute people accused of making false bomb threats rather than fabricating terrorist pasts.

Chaudry, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Burlington, Ontario, is scheduled to appear in court in November.

Canadian police did not immediately respond to questions about what led to the charges. The force generally does not comment on its investigations.

Chaudry had been enrolled as a student in environmental studies at York University in Toronto and the University of Lahore in Pakistan, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He also indicated that he was working as an intern for Parallel Networks, a company based in Alexandria, Virginia, and at a restaurant in Oakville, Ontario, that several Canadian news outlets reported as being owned by his parents.

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