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Canadian pals took part in Algeria attack

Two friends who met at a high school here have been identified as among the militants who attacked an Algerian gas plant in January

Written by New York Times | London | Published: April 4, 2013 1:23 am

IAN AUSTEN

Two friends who met at a high school here have been identified as among the militants who attacked an Algerian gas plant in January,an assault that left 37 hostages and 29 kidnappers dead,government officials said Tuesday.

The path that led the friends,Xristos Katsiroubas and Ali Medlej,both in their 20s,from this city to their deaths in the attack in the Sahara remains unclear,the government officials said. But their actions added credibility to earlier warnings from Canadian security officials and politicians about the political radicalization of some of the country’s young people.

“This is a challenge that has happened in many parts of the West: the US,the UK,Sweden,elsewhere,” Canada’s foreign affairs minister,John Baird,told reporters Tuesday.

The government initially reacted with skepticism to claims by Algerian officials of Canadian involvement in the siege of the plant,but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police later said two Canadians had died there.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported the identities on Monday night. Neither the mounted police nor Canada’s intelligence service would comment Tuesday about the identities or any related investigations.

Katsiroubas and Medlej met at London South Collegiate Institute,a public high school with a reputation for academic rigor in the middle of a prosperous neighborhood. A member of the city’s Greek Orthodox church,on condition of anonymity,said that Katsiroubas was a child when he left the church after his parents were divorced,and that he converted to Islam in his teens.

Several of the city’s Muslim’s leaders said neither Katsiroubas nor Medlej was known at any of the city’s established mosques. “Nobody recognised the names,” said Munir ElKassem,the imam of the Islamic Center of Southwest Ontario,who estimated that 30,000 of the London region’s 474,000 residents are practicing Muslims.

“There were times when I could feel there was a loner not fitting into the community,” the imam said,but no one who fit the description of the two men.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and other Canadian news outlets reported that the two men had been known to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and that its agents questioned people in London in mid-2012 about Katsiroubas in particular. No one answered the doors of homes belonging to his family on Tuesday.

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