The October 19, 2015 federal elections in Canada, in which Justin Trudeau led his Liberal party to victory and assumed the post of prime minister-designate after nearly a decade of Conservative rule, has elicited the usual diplomatic reactions of congratulations from world leaders and ambassadors. Less known, but perhaps of greater significance, is the reaction by what can be described as "online ambassadors" of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other jihadi fighters and online activists via their social media, and particularly on Twitter.
Under the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, Canada was part of the Western coalition fighting against ISIS, particularly in the aerial bombing campaign against it. Canada has also been a focus of ISIS propaganda and calls for attacks against it; in October 2014, two soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Quebec and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Addressing these and other attacks, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani threatened further attacks against Canada and the West, stating, "Indeed, you saw what a single Muslim did with Canada and its parliament of polytheism."
Additionally, numerous Canadians have joined ISIS forces, among them John Maguire, aka Abu Anwar Al-Canadi, who in an ISIS video released in December 2014 blamed the attacks on Canadian participation in the anti-ISIS coalition: "Oh people of CanadaÔÇª what is preventing you from being able to put two and two together and understanding that operations such as [the recent attacks] are carried out in direct response to your participation in the coalition of nations waging war against the Muslim people?... Those leaders ÔÇª whom you have elected to represent yourselves in the running of your country's affairs have gone far out of their way to involve themselves in the global war against the Islamic StateÔÇª So it should not surprise you when operations by the Muslims are executed where it hurts you the most, on your very own soil."
One of Prime Minister-Designate Justin Trudeau's campaign promises, and indeed a focus of his first post-election press conference, concerned the withdrawal of Canada's fighter jets from the U.S.-led mission against ISIS. He asserted, however, that Canada would maintain and even potentially expand its efforts in training anti-ISIS Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, echoing his campaign statement in June: "We would engage Canada's military in something we've demonstrated tremendous ability at in Afghanistan and elsewhere - training up local troops doing the fighting on the ground."
Following the election, and Trudeau's announcements, there was a flood of reactions by known jihadis and ISIS supporters on Twitter, which included individual tweets as well as discussions. The following are examples of this jihadi activity on Twitter following the election.
Prominent ISIS Activist Sally Jones: Obama Begged Canada To Remain In The Air War, But Canadians "Know Whats [Sic] Good For Them"; Tweets Allegedly Share Personal Info Of Drone Operators
Syria-based British ISIS hacktivist Sally Jones (@OumHussainBrit), the widow of prominent ISIS hacker and fighter Junaid Hussain, tweeted on October 20: "Canadian fighter jets to withdraw from fighting ISIS - yeah because they know whats good for them :)." Jones herself has emerged in the last month as a major ISIS hacker and online antagonist of the West.
Source: @OumHussainBrit, October 20, 2015.
The same day, tweeting from another account, @UmmHu55ain_, after her previous account was terminated (one of four accounts she has opened in the last week following repeated terminations), Jones posted a series of tweets on the Canadian elections as well as alleged information about the commander of the Predator drone squadron that killed extremist Yemeni-American sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. After reposting one of the above tweets, she stated: "Released - the address of the Commander of the Predator Squadron that murdered Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki and his son."
Source: @UmmHu55ain__, October 20, 2015.
ISIS Supporter Celebrates Canadian Withdrawal
ISIS supporter @xcv98 expressed joy at the new prime minister's announcement, writing: "Allah is great. Canada withdraws from the alliance against the Islamic_State after the election of new prime minister Justin Trudeau."
Source: @/cxv98, October 21, 2015.
In Discussing Trudeau Victory, Twitter Users Debate Post-Election Policy, Show Knowledge Of Canadian History And Politics, Celebrate 'Antiwar Political Victory'
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Prolific pro-ISIS cyber-security activist Abu Adam Al Maghrebi (@wilayatFezzan) tweeted on Election Day: "Reports coming in that Canada's Liberal Party will be taking a majority position in tonight's elections." The next tweet read: "If they win the elections, they will eventually withdrawy [sic] from the anti-IS coalition."
Source: @WilayatFezzan, October 19, 2015.
Others commented on Al Maghrebi's tweets, including AbuAiysha (@WilayatAnbar):
Justin albequw: "I highly doubt they will withdraw cause at the end of the day Canada is a u.s. lab [sic] dog and the u.s. is owned by the yahuud."
AbuAiysha: "Trudeau's father was also the PrimeMinister."
AbuAiysha: "Your right, Liberals said 'we will support fight against IS but won't send our jets'"
Ustaz Hussein: "Trudeau was a decent man, his son is like him. This will be a huge antiwar political victory in Canada."
#WilayatFezzan, October 19, 2015.
ISIS Supporter: "If Corbyn Is Elected, UK Stands To Go That Way Too"
On October 20, ISIS supporter @misterdaeshi tweeted: "Trudeau takes Canada off the list of countries bombing IS. If Corbyn is elected, UK stands to go that way too."
Source: @misterdaeshi, October 20, 2015.
Pro-ISIS Computer Engineer: "Canada Runs Away"
On October 21, a pro-ISIS self-described computer engineer who tweets under the handle @jan_1_16 wrote, in response to the news: "#Baiji #ISIS You would think they were united, but their hearts are divided. O Allah separate them and don't leave any of them. Canada runs away." The tweet included a news story from BBC Arabic about the election.
Source: @jan_1_16, October 21, 2015.
Pro-ISIS Twitter Activist: "The Crumbling Of The Crusader Alliance Continues"
On October 20, pro-ISIS Twitter activist "Lovelydoc_42," whose account indicates that he may be originally from Belgium, tweeted: "Allah Akbar and thanks to Allah, and the crumbling of the Crusader alliance continues. #Canada stops its strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq."
Pro-ISIS Account Celebrates Withdrawal From Bombing Campaign, But Notes: "Doubt The New Kuffar PM Will Stop Harassing Us"
On October 21, the prominent pro-ISIS account @Saifalkanadi_ tweeted, "Canada new PM to pull the country out of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against #ISIS," and added: "doubt the new kuffar PM will stop harassing us here."
ISIS Supporter: Canadian Withdrawal Dooms Anti-ISIS Efforts
Additionally, ISIS supporter @Monotheist21, whose account has since been shut down, tweeted the news of Canada's withdrawal from the anti-ISIS mission, and added that ISIS would destroy the crusaders' alliance.
Screen grab of @Monotheist21.
ISIS And Canada - The Future
The long-term effect of PM Trudeau's promised withdrawal of Canadian fighter planes from the bombing campaign against ISIS remains to be seen, both on the ground as well as in terms of terrorists' online discussions about Canada. This is particularly true in light of Trudeau's commitment to continue Canadian efforts in training Kurdish militias. But the initial jihadi online reaction to his election and to his promised policies reflects feelings of elation and a sense of triumph at a perceived defeat of Canada and the anti-ISIS coalition. It also must be borne in mind that although the Canadian leadership has changed, ISIS is still not likely to remove its ongoing focus from Canada.
* Elliot Zweig is Deputy Director of MEMRI