03/17/2016 02:14 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 05:12 EDT

'Walking Time Bombs': ISIS's Radicalization Of Our Youth


From The Killing Game by Mark Bourrie ©2016. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

The carefully shot video starts with a wiry young man with long, stringy hair and a thin beard, clad in a loose black robe, walking along the edge of a ruin somewhere in the Middle East. He's wearing a brown ammunition vest and carrying an AK-47. An ISIS logo flashes, then, after a short invocation to Allah, John Maguire -- former Canadian college boy, former punk rock musician -- begins to speak to the folks back home.

"O people of Canada. You are said to be an educated people, so what is preventing you from being able to put two and two together and understanding that operations such as that of brother Ahmad Rouleau (Martin Couture-Rouleau), of Montreal, and the storming of Parliament Hill in Ottawa are carried out in direct response to your participation in the coalition of nations waging war against the Muslim people?

Your leaders, those men and women that 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 State. Your representatives and your leaders have voluntarily chosen to join the coalition of countries waging war against the Muslims. So it should not surprise you when operations by the Muslims are executed where it hurts you the most -- on your very own soil -- in retaliation to your unprovoked acts of aggression towards our people.

You have absolutely no right to live in a state of safety and security when your country is carrying out atrocities on our people. The more bombs you drop on our people, the more Muslims will realize and under- stand that today waging jihad against the West and its allies around the world is beyond a shadow of a doubt a religious obligation binding upon every Muslim."

The video is a well-made digital production. It's edited to show different, and very flattering, angles of John Maguire's face. The background was chosen carefully. There's a bullet-pocked building with an upper floor blown apart -- perhaps by an air strike by Canadian pilots or those of one of the other Western nations that bombs ISIS. A big black ISIS flag flutters in front of a lovely, undamaged mosque.

How did a college boy from Canada end up as the star of an ISIS propaganda video?

Canadian politicians and media took the video very seriously. It was posted to YouTube on December 8, 2014, just a few weeks after Martin Couture-Rouleau, another Muslim convert, killed a soldier walking on a road near Montreal. At the same time, another young man who had rediscovered the Muslim faith of his childhood gunned down Nathan Cirillo, an unarmed sentry at the National War Memorial. Then he hijacked a car and stormed into the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings.


The video turned out to be Maguire's one flirtation with fame. After threatening Canada and praising the attack on Canada's Parliament Building, Maguire went back to the killing grounds of Kobani. According to an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, Maguire was killed in battle in January 2015. Coalition air strikes softened up ISIS's dugouts and ravaged its supply lines. The Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), made up of men and women fighters, along with Free Syrian Army forces, attacked Kobani and drove ISIS from the ground it had taken. Maguire was killed in that counterattack.

How did a college boy from Canada end up as the star of an ISIS propaganda video? What would motivate someone leading a seemingly normal life -- playing in a band, fussing about his grades, spending a bit of time on the hockey rink -- to leave his family and friends, get rid of his belongings, and scrape up the money to travel to one of the most dangerous parts of the world to join an organization that crucifies and beheads its enemies? And why are so many young people, those raised as Muslims and those who were not, making the same journey to join ISIS?

Muslims who oppose ISIS's terror tactics said they expected Maguire to end up dead. Hammad Raza, a University of Ottawa engineering student who met Maguire in the university prayer room and had become his friend, had stopped talking to Maguire when he realized his friend had embraced a "disgusting ideology."

"There are so many people that he may have killed before getting killed. It's really unfortunate that this happened. These people are like walking time bombs. They could go off any time."

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook


Canada's ISIS Mission: Then & Now