Ontario ‘terrorists’: police setup?


Richard Moore

How convenient this 'terrorist plot' is for the hate mongers.


     It was not clear whether the group ever had possession of
     the chemicals, or whether authorities may have had a role in
     arranging for the shipment or transporting the material.

Original source URL:

June 4, 2006

17 Held in Plot to Bomb Sites in Ontario

OTTAWA, June 3 - Seventeen Canadian residents were arrested and 
charged with plotting to attack targets in southern Ontario with 
crude but powerful fertilizer bombs, the Canadian authorities said 

The arrests represented one of the largest counterterrorism sweeps in 
North America since the attacks of September 2001. American officials 
said that the plot did not involve any targets in the United States, 
but added that the full dimension of the plan for attacks was unknown.

At a news conference in Toronto, police and intelligence officials 
said they had been monitoring the group for some time and moved in to 
make the arrests on Friday after the group arranged to take delivery 
of three tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be made into 
an explosive when combined with fuel oil.

"It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack," said Mike 
McDonell, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner. He 
said that by comparison the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah 
Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, was 
carried out "with only one ton of ammonium nitrate."

The 17 men were mainly of South Asian descent and most were in their 
teens or early 20's. One of the men was 30 years old and the oldest 
was 43 years old, police officials said. None of them had any known 
affiliation with Al Qaeda.

"They represent the broad strata of our society," Mr. McDonell said. 
"Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed."

The Canadian police declined to identify specific targets, though 
they did dismiss reports in the news media that Toronto's subway 
system was on the list. The Toronto Star, citing an unidentified 
source, said the group had a list that included the Parliament 
Buildings in Ottawa as well as the Toronto branch office of the 
Canadian Security Intelligence Service. At the news conference, 
officials emphasized that the targets were all in Canada.

In the United States, the arrests reignited fears among American 
counterterrorism officials about the porous northern border even as 
the Bush administration and lawmakers have focused attention in 
recent weeks about hardening the southern border in an effort to 
stanch the flow of illegal immigrants. Since the arrest of Ahmed 
Ressam in December 1999 as he tried to smuggle explosive chemicals 
into Washington State in a plot to strike targets that included the 
Los Angeles international airport, authorities have expressed fears 
that extremists could use Canada as a platform to make attacks inside 
the United States.

The arrests came at the end of a week of furious debate over federal 
spending for domestic security, with officials in cities like New 
York and Washington bitterly criticizing Michael Chertoff, the 
secretary of homeland security, for not allocating more money to 
cities thought likely to remain high on the terrorist target list for 
Al Qaeda and other extremist groups.

The men accused in Canada operated what the police called training 
camps for its members. At their news conference, the police displayed 
at least one pistol, electronics components, military fatigues, 
army-style boots and two-way radios they said were used at the camps, 
although they would not disclose their locations.

The Toronto Star reported that in 2004 the intelligence agency began 
monitoring Internet exchanges, some of which were encrypted. 
According to the newspaper, the training in camps took place north of 
Toronto. Members of the group, according to that account, often 
visited a popular Canadian chain of doughnut shops to wash up 
following their training sessions.

Counterterrorism officials said that interviews with suspects would 
provide greater clarity about the nature of the plot, but they said 
that the men had taken a significant step, moving beyond the planning 
stage, toward acquiring a large quantity of potentially explosive 

It was not clear whether the group ever had possession of the 
chemicals, or whether authorities may have had a role in arranging 
for the shipment or transporting the material.

A police spokeswoman, Cpl. Michele Paradis, asked whether the group 
had actually had the three tons of chemicals in their possession, and 
if the police had "seized" it, replied: "That's difficult to answer. 
They made arrangements to have it delivered and they took delivery."

American officials said that White House officials and 
counterterrorism agencies had been briefed on the case, and of the 
coming arrests, in recent days.

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, 
said, "We are coordinating very closely with our Canadian 
counterparts." He said Mr. Chertoff spoke early Saturday with 
Stockwell Day, the Canadian minister of public safety, but added, "We 
have not made any adjustment to our security posture along the 
northern border."

The New York City Police Department, which has had a detective 
assigned as an intelligence liaison with the Toronto police for four 
years, said it was being kept informed, but had not altered its own 
security measures.

Even as American officials portrayed the case as mainly a Canadian 
operation, the arrests so close to the United States border jangled 
the nerves of intelligence officials who have been warning of the 
continuing danger posed by small "homegrown" extremist groups, who 
appeared to operate without any direct control by known leaders of Al 

One senior counterterrorism official said there had been extensive 
contact between American and Canadian authorities in the past several 
days. Though there appeared to have been no direct threat inside the 
United States, the proximity of the potential terrorists to the 
American border "really got everybody's attention," the official said.

American officials were granted anonymity because they were speaking 
about a continuing investigation.

The F.B.I. issued a statement on Saturday saying there was a 
"preliminary indication" that some of the Canadian subjects might 
have had "limited contact" with two people from Georgia who were 
recently arrested. Those two were Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 19, an 
American of Bangladeshi descent, and Syed Haris Ahmed, 21, a 
Pakistani-born American.

Law-enforcement officials said the men arrested in Georgia had made 
"casing" videos of various sites in Washington, D.C., and have said 
that their case was linked to the arrests of several men in Britain 
last fall, and that the two were believed to have met with 
"like-minded Islamic extremists " in Canada in March 2005.

A counterterrorism official in the United States said that while 
there was contact between the Georgia men earlier this year and those 
arrested in Canada on Friday, there was no evidence that the Georgia 
suspects were involved in the bombing plot.

The suspects were arrested in a series of raids that began late on 
Friday night and continued until early on Saturday morning, in 
Toronto, Mississauga and Kingston, a college town southwest of Ottawa.

All of the men under arrest were taken to a heavily fortified police 
station in Pickering, Ontario, a city east of Toronto. Five were 
under the age of 18 and not identified by the authorities. The others 
were identified as Fahim Ahmad, 21; Zakaria Amara, 20; Asad Ansari, 
21; Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30; Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43; Mohammed Dirie, 
22; Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24; Jahmaal James, 23; Amin Mohamed Durrani, 
19; Steven Vikash Chand, alias Abdul Shakur, 25; Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 
21; and Saad Khalid, 19.

Alvin Chand, the brother of suspect Steven Vikash Chand, dismissed 
the police allegations outside the courthouse.

"He's not a terrorist, come on, he's a Canadian citizen" Mr. Chand 
said, The Canadian Press reported. "The people that were arrested are 
good people. They go to the mosque. They go to school, go to college."

Anser Farooq, a lawyer from Mississauga who is representing five of 
the defendants, said a lack of information at Saturday's court 
hearing made it difficult to assess the case brought by the police.

In court, he said, government lawyers broke with tradition and did 
not present a synopsis of the reasons for their charges, arguing that 
they had not had time to prepare it. It will, however, be presented 
at another hearing on Tuesday.

He declined to identify his clients because he was still formalizing 
his relationship with some of them. But he said none of the five have 
a criminal record.

Tarek Fatah, the communications director of the Muslim Canadian 
Congress, a national group, said that Mr. Jamal, the oldest of the 
suspects, is a well-known and fiery figure in the Toronto area's 
South Asian community, and that he was the imam of the Ar-Rahman 
Quran Learning Center, a mosque in a rented industrial building in 

Immigration from South Asia greatly expanded in Canada beginning in 
the 1970's, and, like several Canadian cities, Toronto and its 
suburbs have long had a large and prominent South Asian community. 
"He took over an otherwise peaceful mosque and threw out the old 
management," Mr. Fatah said. "There were reports throughout the 
community of him making hate speeches."

The mosque did not respond to phone messages. "This is the work of 
people who believe they are victimized when they are not," Mr. Fatah 
said. "Many Islamacists are preying on the Islamic community."

"Law enforcement agencies have done a great service to the Muslim 
community by busting this terrorist cell," he added.

Luc Portelance, the assistant director of operations at the Canadian 
intelligence agency, said the group's members "appear to have become 
adherents of a violent ideology inspired by Al Qaeda." The police 
official, however, said that there was no evidence of links between 
the two groups.

Canada has not sent troops to Iraq, and officials at the news 
conference said they did not believe the group was angry over 
Canada's deployment of troops to Afghanistan.

In a November 2002 audiotape claiming to be a message from Osama bin 
Laden, Bloomberg reported, Al Queda said Canada was "allying 
themselves with America in attacking us in Afghanistan," and listed 
five possible targets: Canada, the United States, Britain, Spain and 

The arrests were only the second time that Canadian police have 
brought charges under anti-terrorism laws passed at the end of 2001. 
Just over two years ago, Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a software developer 
in Ottawa, was charged in connection with a bomb plot.

Both the police and a spokeswoman for the intelligence agency 
declined to say when they first became aware of the Canadian group. 
In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mayor 
David Miller of Toronto said he was given a confidential briefing 
about the group several months ago.

All but two of the adult suspects appeared at a court north of 
Toronto in Brampton, Ontario, Saturday afternoon. By late morning, 
all entrances to the Brampton courthouse were blockaded by steel 
barriers and police cars. As snipers watched from nearby rooftops, 
people entering the court were required to remove their shoes and 
were searched at a series of three command checkpoints.

At the news conference, Mr. McDonell said, the authorities were 
successful in shutting down the terrorist group.

"These individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of 
terrorism against their own country and their own people," Prime 
Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "Today, Canada's 
security and intelligence measures worked."

Ian Austen reported from Ottawa for this article, and David Johnston 
from Washington. Chris Mason contributed reporting from Ontario and 
Robert Pear from Washington.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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