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‘Troubling’ risk assessment report for Calgary man who claimed to be member of ISIS: judge

A report examining the risk posed by a Calgary man who claimed to be a member of ISIS and appeared to be planning to kill gay people in the city was described by a judge as “troubling.” 

Zakarya Hussein, 20, pleaded guilty in December to facilitating terrorist activity. 

A sentencing hearing was supposed to take place Thursday but was delayed because a forensic assessment report was received by lawyers and the judge only in the last day or two. 

Justice Harry Van Harten agreed to the adjournment but first noted the risk assessment conducted on Hussein by a psychiatrist was “kind of troubling.”

“We’re talking about whether he presents a real danger to the public,” said Van Harten.

The judge noted that Hussein described himself to the psychologist as being “duped into doing what he did.”

During his plea, Hussein admitted to posting concerning videos, photos, messages and instructions on how to make explosive devices to various messaging and social media accounts like Telegram, TikTok and Snapchat.

‘It’s pride month. I’ve been waiting’

The offences took place over a three-month period in 2023, according to an agreed statement of facts presented at the plea.

When police searched Hussein’s house in June, investigators seized an ISIS flag and a notebook with handwritten, step-by-step instructions on how to make an improvised explosive device.

Hussein’s target appeared to be members and supporters of Calgary’s 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

On June 1, he posted to Snapchat: “Tomorrow my mission begins. It’s pride month. I’ve been waiting.”

ISIS recruitment video

He then referenced two different types of explosive devices, one of which matched what was described in the handwritten instructions seized from his bedroom. 

Hussein’s Google history included searches for “gay pride month,” “pride month Calgary,” “the killing of gay persons” and “suicide attacks.”

A forensic investigation of Hussein’s devices showed investigators also determined he searched articles related to Calgary men who travelled overseas to join ISIS, as well as articles related to the court proceedings of a Calgarian who was sentenced on terrorism charges.

On Snapchat, Hussein told followers he was a member of ISIS and discussed travelling to Iraq or Syria to engage in war.

3 youths arrested

Hussein also posted an ISIS recruitment video to TikTok.

Prosecutor Kent Brown and defence lawyer Alain Hepner told Justice Van Harten that they expect to have a joint submission on the length of sentence they’ll propose at the hearing, which is now set for April. 

Three others, all youths, were charged as part of the same national security investigation.

One has already been placed on a terrorism peace bond and the two other cases are expected to resolve the same way in the coming months.  

A peace bond is an acknowledgement that there are reasonable grounds to fear that a person may commit a terrorism offence.

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