Canadian killed in Russia: reports; Young boxer may have been with insurgents

Stewart Bell
National Post
July 17, 2012 Tuesday

TORONTO . Canadian officials were looking into reports Monday that a young Ontario boxer had been killed by Russian security forces during an anti-terrorism operation in the restive North Caucasus.

William Plotnikov, a 23 year-old also known as "The Canadian," was among seven insurgents killed in Dagestan on Friday when they were ambushed by the police and military, Russian media outlets reported.

A police officer was also killed in the gun battle near the village of Utamysh, reported The Moscow Times. Dagestan has been the scene of regular insurgent violence between Islamist rebels and Russian security forces.

Mr. Plotnikov, who was carrying a Canadian passport, had boxed for the European Boxing Club in Ontario and became a Canadian citizen in 2008. He later studied at Seneca College in Toronto but returned to Russia in 2010.

"Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather information regarding reports of a Canadian citizen killed in Russia," said Claude Rochon, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Russia plays up the apparent killing of foreigners in the Caucasus in an attempt to portray its conflict against Islamist insurgents as a fight against international terrorism. In 2004, Russian forces said they had similarly killed a Canadian named Rudwan Khalil in Chechnya.

Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, testified to a Senate committee in April that "at least 45 Canadians, possibly as many as 60" had travelled abroad to join al-Qaeda affiliates.

CSIS declined to say how many of them were dead.

"While we have indeed identified Canadians who have travelled abroad to join extremist groups and possibly to participate in terrorist activities, I cannot discuss specifics about them," Tahera Mufti, the CSIS spokeswoman, told the National Post last month.

"What I can say is that the phenomenon of young Canadians joining violent organizations overseas is very real. These groups – Al-Shabab and al-Qaeda among them – offer young people a misguided sense of purpose and belonging, and maybe even an ill-conceived promise of adventure in a foreign land – but too often it gets them killed.

"This is a serious security threat to Canadian interests because those recruits could return to Canada to promote radicalism, share their terrorist training and possibly even carry out acts of violence on Canadian soil. People who participate in these activities abroad are a threat to the interests of Canadians and our allies, and no one should be surprised that it often ends violently for them."

Canadians killed in overseas counter-terrorism operations include: Abdul Rahman Jabarah, killed in Saudi Arabia; al-Qaeda figure Ahmed Khadr, killed in Pakistan; and Mohammed Elmi Ibrahim, who left Canada to join the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab in Somalia.


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