Canadian police announced Tuesday that they had penetrated a cell recruiting fighters for Islamic State militants in the Middle East, with four of six identified suspects now in custody and warrants issued for the other two.
The arrest Tuesday of Awso Peshdary, 25, on charges of participating in the activity of a terrorist group followed the arrests last month of three others from the Ottawa cell facing the same charges.
The two suspects still at large are believed to have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join Islamic State. The extremist group controls at least a third of those countries' territory and has carried out a spree of savage executions. A video released Tuesday showed a captured Jordanian pilot apparently being burned alive.
The two fugitives were identified as John Maguire, 24, and Khadar Khalib, 23, both of whom police said in a statement were believed to be in Islamic State-held territory.
Maguire appeared in an Islamic State propaganda video last year in which he appealed to fellow Canadians to stage attacks on their countrymen.
Extremist-related Twitter accounts have reported that Maguire was killed recently during the fierce fight waged over the Syrian border town of Kobani between Islamic State and Kurdish ground forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.
At an Ottawa news conference Tuesday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Supt. Jennifer Strachan said Maguire traveled to Turkey in December 2012 and is known to have become a member of Islamic State. But authorities have yet to see any credible evidence that he has been killed, she said.
"We continue to work actively with our domestic and international partners to return Khalib and Maguire to Canada so they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," she told reporters.
The latest arrest and charges in absentia "speak to our ability to tackle a threat that is multi-faceted and constantly evolving,” Assistant RCMP Commissioner James Malizia said in a statement.
"Through collaborative efforts with our partners, we were able to disrupt an organized network associated with [Islamic State]. This network was involved in recruiting individuals for terrorism purposes and in sending them into Syria and Iraq for the benefit of this terrorist group."
Authorities arrested three others associated with the same recruiting operation on Jan. 9. Twin brothers Carlos and Ashton Larmond, 24, and Suliman Mohamed, 21, were charged with participating in the activities of a terrorist group as well as other offenses. All three were on the RCMP's national security watch list, Canadian Press reported.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed after two "lone wolf" terrorist strikes in October to seek legislation that would allow authorities to better track and detain suspected extremists. Those attacks killed a sentry on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and a soldier in a parking lot near Montreal.
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