A Kingston youth has been charged with terrorism-related offences as part of a national security investigation.
The RCMP, with the assistance of Kingston Police and the FBI, say a young person is facing a charge of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity and counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury.
The youth cannot be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The RCMP say the investigation began in late December 2018 after they received credible FBI information regarding an attack plot.
“There was no specific target identified,” said Supt. Peter Lambertucci, who is in charge of the RCMP’s national-security enforcement team, at a news conference in Kingston Friday.
“There was an attack plan, which is what led to our disruption (Thursday).”
“The individual was reported to be involved in the manufacturing of homemade improvised explosive devices,” Lambertucci said.
Investigators confirmed that during a search of the youth’s home a potentially explosive substance was removed and blown up to neutralize it.
“There were elements and trace elements but I’m not prepared to speak on that with regard to the ongoing investigation,” he said.
Police say an adult male was also arrested but he was released late Friday without being charged.
The man, identified as Hussam Eddin Alzahabi, told CityNews this was all “just a misunderstanding.”
The Alzahabi family came to Canada about two years ago after fleeing war-torn Damascus for Kuwait. Their home in Syria has been destroyed. The father was once imprisoned for not joining the ruling political party in Syria and would be vulnerable to arrest and severe retaliation should he and the family return home, according to one of the churches that sponsored them as refugees.
Bronek Korczynski, who co-chaired the sponsorship committee, said he and other members of the four churches that brought the family to Canada were shocked by news of the younger Alzahabi’s arrest.
“Even though our sponsorship ended last July, many of us in the group have maintained relationships with the family – meaningful relationships – and this is just a real body blow,” he said. “We’re just gobsmacked by this. It’s so out of whack with the family we’ve come to know and care for.”
Korczynski said he’d been at a meeting with Kingston Police and RCMP on Friday morning, alongside other community leaders. Officers wanted to ensure the leaders had the answers they needed, and were able to continue providing services to the family and the broader community.
“It was very much an opportunity to say, ‘What can the community do to make sure that this doesn’t become an incident that unjustifiably targets any ethnic group, national group, religious group?'” he said.
He added that Alzahabi has both a younger and an older sibling, both of whom are dedicated to their education.
The investigation included a small RCMP surveillance plane, whose circling over Kingston has puzzled, and sometimes annoyed, residents for weeks.
“The aerial support of the plane allows us surveillance capabilities from the air to ensure that we are able to maintain public safety and mitigate risk surrounding certain addresses, certain areas of concern,” Lambertucci said.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement that the government constantly monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them.
“Canadians can be confident that whenever credible information is obtained about a potential threat, the RCMP, CSIS and other police and security agencies take the appropriate steps to ensure the security of this country and the safety of its citizens.”
Goodale said the country’s official threat level remains at “medium,” where it has stood since the autumn of 2014.
In a joint statement, the Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses for the Kingston area said they support the police in their investigation and pointed out that hundreds of people have been successfully settled in Canada as church-sponsored refugees after passing government screenings.