Canadian sentenced to 10 years for plan to join militant group

TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian provincial court on Thursday imposed a 10-year prison term - the maximum available - on a man convicted of attempting to join a militant group abroad.

Mohamed Hassan Hersi, 28, was convicted in late May on charges of attempting to participate in the activities of a terrorist group, and for providing counsel to a person to participate in terrorist activity. He was sentenced in a Toronto-area court to two consecutive five-year terms of imprisonment, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said in a statement. The total 10-year sentence is the maximum allowed for the charges.

A lawyer for Hersi did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment on the sentence. Hersi was initially arrested in 2011 just before he was about to board a plane bound for North Africa. Prosecutors alleged he was headed to Somalia to join the militant al Shabaab Islamist group.

The conviction comes as Canada wrestles with several cases of radicalised Canadians plotting attacks at home or heading overseas to join militant groups. Just last month, a British Columbia man was charged under a new Canadian law that specifically targets those who travel for terrorist purposes. Hasibullah Yusufzai, 25, of Burnaby, British Columbia, was charged with leaving the country "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group." Canadian police say he had travelled to Syria to join Islamist fighters. The charges have not been proven in court.

That followed the arrest of two men last year who were charged with plotting to derail a Toronto-area passenger train bound for New York.

And last January, two Canadians were believed to be part of a group that stormed a gas plant in Algeria and took hostages. After a four-day siege, Algerian forces stormed the plant. At least 80 people were killed.

In 2006, police arrested and charged a group of men - eventually dubbed the "Toronto 18" - with planning attacks on Canadian targets. Eleven members of the group were convicted of offences.

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