OTTAWA - The federal government says it is taking online threats against Canadian citizens seriously after reports an al-Qaida linked website has targeted up to 100 Canadians who are Arab Christians and have spoken out against radical Islam.
“The Canadian government strongly condemns the threats made against Canadian residents who simply by practising their religion are being targeted by those who would spread their hate and fanaticism,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters in Winnipeg.
“Threats of this kind against Canadian residents cannot and will not shake our resolve to respect and welcome people regardless of their religious beliefs. The right to practise one's religion free from intimidation is one of the fundamental pillars of a free and open society.”
Names, photos and even phone numbers of the Canadians, mostly Coptic Christians who originally hail from Egypt, have been posted on the Shumukh-al-Islam website. The siteis viewed by security experts as an official voice for the al-Qaida terrorist network and calls for the beheading of Coptic Christians for defaming Islam.
“This is a very grave situation when you have the long arm of al-Qaida providing cellphone numbers and photos for Canadians, apparently to target them for death,” said lawyer and intelligence expert David Harris.
The fact photos and phone numbers accompany the names of those targeted is believed to mean someone inside Canada is providing the information.
The RCMP and CSIS are aware of the threats but the government won't comment further.
“I can't comment on operational matters, but I can tell you that the RCMP and CSIS are very closely involved in this matter,” Toews said. “It's very disconcerting that Canadians would be targeted in this way. But it simply illustrates the fact that Canadians are not immune from terrorism.”