OTTAWA — The federal government is now working on the assumption that the reported abduction of an Israeli-Canadian woman by Islamic militants may in fact be false, The Canadian Press has learned.
A government official who was not authorized to speak on the record about the matter offered that assessment Monday as two federal cabinet ministers urged Canadians to avoid following in the footsteps of Gill Rosenberg, who joined Kurdish fighters overseas.
The government has not been able to confirm that Rosenberg is free and OK, but several unconfirmed social media reports suggest that is the case.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Canadians who want to fight terrorism should be content to support domestic law enforcement and not put their lives at risk in fighting overseas.
Blaney and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird reiterated past warnings to all Canadians to avoid travelling to Syria and Iraq.
“The best way to fight terrorism is to support our national law enforcement or national security agencies,” said Blaney.
“It is important to follow the consular advice and avoid engaging in combat activity abroad without the scope of our national Canadian Armed Forces or national security agency.”
Baird said public servants from his department are trying to find out more information about Rosenberg’s status.
“We have advised for some time against all travel to either Syria or Iraq because we have virtually no capacity to be able to provide support on the ground in most of those countries,” Baird said.
The Jerusalem Post reported Rosenberg’s capture on Sunday based on websites “known to be close” to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
However, other social media posts that emerged Monday appear to indicate that Rosenberg is free, and still fighting with her new Kurdish comrades.
Rosenberg was reportedly abducted in clashes between ISIL and Kurdish troops have occurred around the Syrian city of Kobani, near the Turkish border.
According to an emphatic Monday blog post, Rosenberg is safe and was never in the Kobani theatre.
Blogger Mutlu Civiroglu, who describes himself a Washington, D.C.-based Kurdish affairs expert and journalist, wrote that he spoke Monday to the Kurdish defence chief for Kobani, who assured him that Rosenberg had never been in his area.
Civiroglu said he spoke to another Kurdish official who personally met Rosenberg on Sunday.
“The official, who wanted to remain anonymous because she was not authorized to speak, said Gill is safe and she wants her beloved ones not to worry about her well-being,” Civiroglu wrote on his blog.
Civiroglu wrote that the two Kurdish sources consider the story to be a piece of ISIL propaganda, with one of them questioning why no photo of Rosenberg in captivity has been released.
At least two separate Facebook postings also emerged Sunday and Monday saying that Rosenberg is safe but has no Internet access.
Rosenberg has been used Facebook to report regularly on her decision to join the Kurdish fighters battling ISIL.
An Israeli television station reported that the 31-year-old Canadian-born woman, who has served in the Israeli military, travelled to Iraq to join Kurdish fighters early last month.
The television report said Rosenberg had previously worked as a pilot in Canada. It also said she had served time in a U.S. prison for her role in a telephone scam.
Rosenberg has also told Israel Radio that said she contacted the fighters on Facebook. “I was with the guerrillas in the mountains for a few days and then I crossed the border,” she said in Hebrew.
Facebook photos show pictures of Rosenberg in an Israeli army uniform in Jerusalem as well as selfies that were reportedly taken in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the challenges facing at least two major Canadian police forces in combatting terrorism were made plain to a Senate committee on Monday. The top police officers from Edmonton and Montreal told the hearing that their forces are overwhelmed by the need to investigate a growing number of potential terrorist threats inside Canada.
About 100 files linked to terrorism were opened in the last two months, with about 10 to 20 people being watched, Montreal police told the committee, which is examining the various security threats facing Canada.
Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said his force has handed over entire surveillance teams to the RCMP for investigative work into potential threats, at the expense of local policing.