Canada gunman complained about ‘liberal’ mosque

Calgary muslims take a moment after laying flowers at the cenotaph on a Canadian flag laid out for Canadian soldiers Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent at Central Memorial park in Calgary, Alberta, October 24, 2014. (Reuters)

The gunman who shot and killed a soldier during a shooting rampage through Canada’s Parliament made complaints a few years ago that a Vancouver mosque he frequented between 2011 and 2012 was too liberal, the Associated Press reported.

Aasim Rashid, spokesman for the British Columbia Muslim Association, said Friday that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was asked to not come back to the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque after he used the prayer house as accommodation.

Prior to spending nights at the mosque, Rashid said Zehaf-Bibeau had complained to leaders in the previous administration about the mosque’s openness allow non-Muslim visitations.

Ideological clashes with the Mosque

“The mosque administration sat him down and explained to him that this is how they run the mosque and that they will keep the doors open to all Muslims and non-Muslims who want to visit,” he said at a news conference held at the mosque Friday.

Following his critical remarks, Zehaf-Bibeau was told he should go pray at a different mosque if he disagreed.

However, he continued to visit until he was asked to leave after officials learnt he was still sleeping in the mosque while battling legal troubles.

After the second or third time, he was told to leave the premises and “not to come back,” Rashid said.

“This was the last interaction that the people of the mosque here have had with him,” he said.

Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, fatally shot a soldier guarding Canada’s national war memorial Wednesday, and was eventually gunned down inside Parliament by the sergeant-at-arms following a shooting spree.

His motive remains unknown, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called the shooting a terror attack, and the incident may be linked to Canada joining a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists in Iraq and Syria

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police released two photos of Zehaf-Bibeau on Friday evening hoping members of the public would come forward with information.

Police say they are particularly interested in information from his time in Ottawa from Oct. 2.

“ISIS-inspired”

The Ottawa attack follows a self-described “ISIS-inspired terrorist” tan over two soldiers in a Quebeck parking lot, killing one and injuring the other.

The attack in Ottawa came two days after a man described as an “ISIS-inspired terrorist” ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police. The man had been under surveillance by Canadian authorities, who feared he had Islamist-militant ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey.

The Muslim association has been developing a preventive program focusing on minimizing the effect of terrorist and criminal propaganda in Canada, Rashid said.

He decried the recent violence.

“These are acts of criminal violence and show utter disregard for human life and the laws of the world as well as its religions,” he said. “We openly denounce the propaganda of the lawless groups trying to incite Canadians to hurt other Canadians.”

In July, another man who attended the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, 25-year-old Hasibullah Yusufzai, was charged under a new anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving the country to join Islamist fighters in Syria. Yusufzai is believed to have left Canada in January.

Rashid said Yusufzai attended the mosque two or three years ago.

“We do know that at some point he was asked to leave this mosque because of certain views he was expressing,” he said.

Criminal history

While he was living in Vancouver in 2011, Zehaf-Bibeau was arrested on a robbery charge. During a court-ordered psychological evaluation, he said he committed the crime for the sole purpose of getting incarcerated.

An evaluation said Zehaf-Bibeau believed jail was the only way to overcome a crack addiction and that as a devoted Muslim, he thought prison time was a way to pay for his mistakes.

Unlike the attacker in the Quebec case, Zehaf-Bibeau was not being watched by authorities. But a top police official said Zehaf-Bibeau - whose father was from Libya - may have lashed out in frustration over delays in getting his passport.

Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the police commissioner said Zehaf-Bibeau’s email was found on the hard drive of someone charged with a terrorist-related offense. He didn’t say who and described the connection as tenuous.

Zehaf-Bibeau’s passport had not been revoked or his application rejected, but authorities were still investigating whether to grant him one, Paulson said. The wait appeared to weigh heavily on Zehalf-Bibeau.

Abubakir Abdelkareem, who often visited the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter downtown where Zehaf-Bibeau stayed in recent weeks, said Zehaf-Bibeau told him he had had a drug problem but had been clean for three months and was trying to steer clear of temptation by going to Libya.

But in the days before the attack, Abdelkareem said Zehaf-Bibeau stopped being talkative and sociable and slept during the day. Abdelkareem concluded Zehaf-Bibeau was back on drugs.

In an email to the AP expressing horror and sadness at what happened, Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother, Susan Bibeau, said that her son seemed lost and “did not fit in,” and that she hadn’t seen him for more than five years until having lunch with him last week.

(With The Associated Press)

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Last Update: 06:44 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44
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