This article originally appeared in the Toronto Sun.
Abdulrahman El-Bahnasawy was either a hardened terrorist or a mentally ill drug abuser exploited by a cruel system. Depending on who you ask.
The deeply troubled man from Mississauga, Ontario, has been sentenced to 40 years after pleading guilty to seven counts of terrorism last March.
His thwarted attempts in New York City were an ISIS-fuelled plot where he would have unleashed carnage and bloodshed on Manhattan landmarks.
Now, his mother tells the Sun she refuses to accept his guilty plea and wants to present the facts – ones that tell the story of his mental health and how unfair Canadian and U.S. authorities have been to him.
Khadiga Metwally told The Sun in an email that her 21-year-old son is a “sick kid” and that a U.S. prison is “the harshest environment any kid [can] face.”
“He tried suicide three times with poor treatment in the harsh environment in prison,” Metwally moaned.
“My son was arrested by all unfair reasons… (he was) manipulated by FBI with the help of RCMP.
“They manipulated him by ‘hyper’ talking while he was manic and wasn’t under treatment.”
She added: “Then [he] was arrested from the family car during our vacation visit to New York City. My son had only his bag and a few clothes. Nothing to threat[en] anybody.”
And it’s all Canada’s fault, Metwally said calling the charges “fabricated” and stating her son did not get the treatment he needed.
She also shared a document addressed to CAMH from the RCMP, requesting El-Bahnasawy’s records in a drug rehabilitation program during its investigation.
“This document shows the dirty role which the RCMP played to manipulate and drag a mentally ill boy via the internet until he got arrested in the U.S.,” Metwally writes. “We need to show you all his other medical reports but on time inshallah.”
“When we moved back to Canada, we seeked (sic) mental health treatments for my son locally, however, we were, unfortunately, the three-quarters [of] Canadians who had a hard time seeking [getting] such help.”
Metwally said she has gone public to warn other Canadian parents that authorities can twist their children’s words and intentions.
“Our story is an alarm for all Canadians to act effectively to protect their kids from any kind of ‘net manipulating’ … specially from very sensitive organizations who [are] supposed to protect them not to manipulate,” she said.
What investigators said about his role in the Big Apple bomb plot:
— Purchased 40 lbs. of hydrogen peroxide to be used in an improvised explosive device;
— Admitted mailing bomb-making material to the New York City area prior to the deadly plot;
— The U.S. Dept. of Justice said he “pinpointed bomb locations on a map of the subway system”;
— Used “encrypted electronic messaging applications” with his co-conspirators, and
— The plan was to bomb subway system and Times Square in addition to carrying out mass slaughter with guns in busy Big Apple restaurants and concert venues.
“[He] plotted with Talha Haroon, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen living in Pakistan and Russell Salic, a 38-year-old Philippines citizen and resident, to conduct bombings and shootings in heavily populated areas of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan in 2016, all in the name of ISIS,” the DOJ said.
It adds: “El-Bahnasawy acquired bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City to use for building explosive devices and staging the NYC Attacks.”
But the plot was thwarted when an FBI operative posing as an ISIS fanboy infiltrated this cell and offered to take part in the plot.
In May 2016, El-Bahnasawy travelled from Toronto to the New York City area, according to the DOJ, “in preparation for the attacks.”
His mother doesn’t believe it.
El-Bahnasawy’s legal eagles argued he was mentally ill and unfit to stand trial. The judge disagreed.
Just 18-years-old at the time of his arrest, the sophisticated ISIS cell he belonged to targeted a number of New York City landmarks in the spring of 2016.
El-Bahnasawy said he wanted to “create the next 9/11” and in some terror one-upmanship unleash attacks worse than the 2015 massacres in Paris and Brussels.
Meanwhile, his mother seemed to believe her son was indulging in some online fantasy or “online chatting”.
The unsporting police, she believes, targeted her boy while he was off his meds and on a waiting list for mental health treatment.
“With good medication, he shows great results. But during entrapment, he was waiting in waiting list [for] mental health [treatment] in Canada,” Metwally said.
To prove her point, she shared his health records from CAMH.
According to the documents, El-Bahnasawy was a mental wreck in 2013-2014.
A heavy drug user – including heroin and air fresheners — he also suffered from anxiety, depression and occasional hallucinations.
While his mother claims the family is Canadian and lives in the Toronto area, in CAMH reports the young terrorist calls Kuwait the family’s “home”.
But in a 24-page handwritten letter presented at his trial last year, El-Bahnasawy claimed he wanted to live a normal life in Canada.
And he wanted to experiment with drugs but his devout parents were controlling and authoritarian.
El-Bahnasawy had lived in Canada since he was seven years old and claimed to have kissed the ground when the family arrived from Kuwait.
As for racism and bullying, he said it was not part of his experience.
“The students all treated each other the same, including me,” he wrote. “I quickly started making friends and I remember it being a great feeling.”
But his mother tried to put the kibosh on the boy’s newfound freedom, he claimed.
Finally, she sent him back to Kuwait where he did experience the harsh realities of racism and became a dope dealer and heavy user.
By the age of 17, he was back in Canada and off drugs. But he suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies.
“My parents forced me to enrole (sic) in an Islamic school, I wasn’t Muslim and didn’t identify as Muslim, but it was better than Kuwait,” he wrote, adding it was during his time at the Islamic school in the Toronto area that he become radicalized and drawn to ISIS and “militant jihad.”
According to a 2018 forensic psychological evaluation of El-Banhasawy — shared with the Sun by his mother — he came from an intact, well-educated moderate Sunni Muslim family. He has average intellectual abilities but was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; his heavy drug use in his teenage years contributed to deeper cognitive problems.
The report states that the racism he experienced in the Middle East, as well as his social problems, drug use and over-protective parents led him towards ISIS and the jihadist ideology.
According to the doctors assessing El-Banhasawy, “this is not an unusual path through which young people become involved in extreme political violence.”
The documents came unsolicited to the Sun, which made no deals at all concerning receipt of the material.
Twenty-four hours later, Metwally apparently had a change of heart. She wrote again to say “please destroy them all.”