Terrorist plot for huge bombs in Ontario thwarted with arrest of 17 Muslim adults & minors -police warn of homegrown radical network
'Enough explosives to blow up 3 Murrah Federal Buildings'
Saturday, June 03, 2006
TORONTO (CP) - Fifteen of the 17 Ontario terror suspects appeared in a Brampton court this afternoon, in handcuffs and shackles under tight-security.
One woman wept as the men and teenage boys were led into the courtroom five at a time.
Most were wearing street clothes, although some appeared in white jump suits.
The majority sported the traditional Muslim male beard.
The men stand accused of plotting a series of terrorist attacks against unspecificed targ - ets in southern Ontario.
Their next court date is on Tuesday.
TORONTO (CP) - A list of the adults arrested and charged with offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Five youths, who cannot be named, were also charged:
1. Fahim Ahmad, 21, Toronto;
2. Zakaria Amara, 20, Mississauga, Ont.;
3. Asad Ansari, 21, Mississauga;
4. Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30, Mississauga;
5. Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, Mississauga;
6. Mohammed Dirie, 22, Kingston, Ont.;
7. Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, Kingston;
8. Jahmaal James, 23, Toronto;
9. Amin Mohamed Durrani, 19, Toronto;
10. Steven Vikash Chand alias Abdul Shakur, 25, Toronto;
11. Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, Mississauga;
12. Saad Khalid, 19, of Eclipse Avenue, Mississauga.
OTTAWA (CP) - Statement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding terrorism-related arrests of 12 men and five youths, all from Ontario:
"This morning, Canadians awoke to the news that our law enforcement and national security agencies have arrested 17 individuals for terrorism related offences.
"These individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of terrorism against their own country and their own people.
"As we have said on many occasions, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. Through the work and co-operation of the RCMP, CSIS, local law enforcement and Toronto's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), acts of violence by extremist groups may have been prevented.
"Today, Canada's security and intelligence measures worked. Canada's new government will pursue its efforts to ensure the national security of all Canadians."
Later, Harper spoke in English to military recruits and their families at the Canadian War Museum:
"Today, Canadians have learned that the RCMP and Toronto-area police with the help of CSIS and our intelligence community have arrested 17 individuals for terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. Their target - their alleged target - was Canada: Canadian institutions, the Canadian economy, the Canadian people.
"As at other times in our history, we are a target because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values. Values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law; the values that make Canada great; values that Canadians cherish; values that citizens like you are willing to defend.
"I'd like to commend the work of the RCMP, CSIS and local police authorities in conducting this operation. We will continue to support them by strengthening our laws, our policies and the resources dedicated to the fight against terrorism here and around the world.
"Today, Canada's security and intelligence measures worked. Canada's new government will continue its efforts to ensure the national security of all Canadians. And you in the Canadian Forces, working with our police and intelligence service in Canada and Afghanistan and around the world will help us do just that."
--------------------------------------------Nevermind foreign terrorists, why is Canada growing its own extremists?
Saturday, June 03, 2006
They are young, militant and Canadian. And according to senior counterterrorism authorities, they have been plotting large-scale terrorist attacks on Canadian soil.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service acknowledged this week it has been investigating groups of "homegrown" extremists. In candid testimony to the Senate national security committee, the agency went on to say that these young followers of the "al-Qaeda ideology" have been plotting against targets within Canada.
"They are not looking to Afghanistan, the U.K. or anywhere else," Jack Hooper, the CSIS Deputy Director of Operations, testified on Monday.
The exact targets of these young terrorists were not revealed, but it is their profile that is most shocking: young Canadian Muslims who have somehow become radicalized while growing up in Canada.
They are "homegrown." In other words, they have emerged from within Canada, rather than infiltrating it from abroad. They are insiders, not outsiders like Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam, who was behind Canada's last major terrorism scare in 1999.
"Increasingly, we are learning of more and more extremists that are homegrown," says a declassified CSIS report obtained by the National Post. "The implications of this shift are important."
Across the Atlantic, the term "European Jihad" is now used to describe the new generation of young Muslim extremists who not only live in Europe, but also consider it a legitimate terrorist target.
A Canadian Jihad is apparently underway as well.
Canada's top national security problem used to be the homeland terrorism that occurs when foreigners bring to Canada the violent causes of their countries of origin.
Other people's wars have been seeping into Canada for decades as a result of what intelligence officials call "the spillover effect," which is what happened when Sikh terrorists in B.C. bombed two Air-India planes in 1985.
Homeland terrorists such as the Tamil Tigers remain a security problem for Canada, but they are no longer the country's only major threat. Of equal concern to counterterrorism investigators is homegrown terrorism.
"We have a bifurcated threat at this point," Mr. Hooper testified. "The threat that comes to Canada from the outside as well as a homegrown threat, and the homegrown variants look to Canada to execute their targeting.
"We must be vigilant on two fronts," he added, "that which is coming to us from the outside environment and, increasingly, that which is growing up in our communities."
In Europe, the United States and Australia, intelligence agencies have been reporting the same trend: loose homegrown youth networks (some of them virtual networks that exist only in cyberspace) inspired by al-Qaeda but that operate locally and autonomously.
The suicide bombings in London last July 7 that killed 52, for example, were the work of three British-born Muslims and a Jamaican-born immigrant who had converted to Islam. "The attacks showed very clearly that terrorism is a 'homegrown' problem," said a British parliamentary committee's report on the bombings.
Western jihadist youth counterculture is the next phase in the evolution of global terrorism. Since becoming a credible threat in the late 1980s, al-Qaeda has decentralized and spread from its origins in Pakistan and Afghanistan to the point that a "high percentage" of the extremists on the CSIS radar screen are now Canadian-born. "These individuals are part of Western society, and their 'Canadianness' makes detection more difficult," a "secret" CSIS report notes.
Generation Jihad encompasses a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and includes Africans and South Asians as well as converts to Islam. Some are educated and computer-literate, while others have criminal records and more closely fit the profile of street-gang culture.
But they share a devotion to puritanical Islam, contempt for non-Muslims (and other Muslims deemed not sufficiently Islamist) and a seething anger at what they see as the worldwide oppression of Muslims. On top of that, they believe that terrorist violence is a justified response to the "war on Islam" they are convinced the West is waging in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as within Western countries such as Canada, which have arrested Muslims for terrorism.
While they look to Osama bin Laden for inspiration, they are not formal members of al-Qaeda. They often have no apparent connection to any terrorist groups. Most have never been to a terrorist training camp, (although some have been trained in Canada, abroad or online).
Rather than taking orders from overseas bosses, they plan and execute their activities locally, "without input from masterminds abroad," says one CSIS report. The Internet provides all the indoctrination and instruction they need. But what truly distinguishes them from the old guard is that whereas homeland terrorists tended to go overseas (Afghanistan and Chechnya, for example) to fulfill their violent fantasies, homegrown terrorists want to fight their jihad right here in Canada. They see Canada as another battlefield.
This new generation of young radicals is "a significant threat to national security" and "a clear and present danger to Canada and its allies," according to de-classified CSIS reports.
"A small number of Islamic extremists in Canada advocate violent jihad in pursuit of their political or religious aims," says another intelligence report written in the days after the London bombings.
"The reasons for this radicalization are varied and include a general sense of anger at what is seen as oppression of Muslims throughout the world [and] parental influence."
Intelligence agencies have been struggling to explain the "jihadization" of Western Muslim youths. What is driving some of them to embrace extremist violence against their own countries?
The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, dealing with many of the same problems as CSIS, said in a report released in May that radicalization is a result of the struggle among young Muslims to reconcile Islam with an increasingly modern, global and secular world.
"Although Muslims worldwide are faced with globalization and modernization, young Muslims growing up in secular Western societies, in which Islam is just one more religious and cultural movement, are much more acutely confronted with problems of existential and religious orientation." These youths may turn to the Koran for guidance, but lacking strong Muslim cultural roots and sometimes ignorant of true Islamic teachings, they can fall into the trap of believing that to be "good Muslims," they must adhere to extremist interpretations of the faith, it says.
"With the help of radical Web sites and chat sessions they compile a radical 'cut-and-paste' version of Islam from Koran quotations which they reshape into a revolutionary pamphlet of global violent jihad," the Dutch security service says.
Tom Quiggin, a former RCMP expert on jihadism who now works in Singapore, said homegrown terrorists tend to get serious about religion in their late teens and twenties.
"Their so-called 'religious education' is usually nothing but cherry-picked Koranic statements heavily laced with poisonous jihadist messages that bear little resemblance to the actual message of Islam."
The Intelligence Assessments Branch of CSIS acknowledges that, "There does not appear to be a single process that leads to extremism: the transformation is highly individual." But CSIS has singled out some of the factors that it says are leading Canadian youths down the path to terror.
One of the most common is family ties. Fathers with extreme Islamic beliefs are raising their children to be extreme believers. One example is Ahmed Khadr, the Canadian who sent his sons to training camps in Afghanistan and encouraged one of them to become a suicide bomber.
Many homegrown terrorists are also radicalized as a result of a spiritual leader who guides them to extremism. This was the case with Mohammed Jabarah, who joined al-Qaeda after graduating from high school in St. Catharines, Ont. His guide was a Kuwaiti cleric named Sulayman Abu Gaith, who recruited several young boys, many of them now dead or imprisoned.
Another factor is religious conversion. CSIS reports that Islamic terrorists are actively seeking out Western converts, who are "highly-prized by terrorist groups for their familiarity with the West and relative ease at moving through Western society."
As newcomers to the Islamic faith, converts can be prone to recruitment into extremism because they are unfamiliar with true Islamic teachings and are therefore vulnerable to manipulation. "The issue of radicalized converts will grow over the next few decades," a CSIS report says.
Adds the federal government's Integrated Threat Assessment Centre: "Much like the attraction of extreme ideologies of past decades, radical Islam will continue to appeal to the disenfranchised and those struggling with a personal or spiritual crisis."
The Internet is cited by CSIS as well. The Internet has been described as the engine propelling the global jihadi movement. It serves as a virtual training camp, where everything from recruitment literature to explosives recipes are available for downloading by youths sitting in their living rooms. "Once hooked into these webs of information, susceptibility to recruitment increases," CSIS writes.
One of the challenges with homegrown terrorism is how to respond. Traditionally, CSIS has used as three-tiered approach to fighting terrorists: prevent known terrorists from coming to Canada; if that fails, intercept them at the border or airport; and as a last resort, investigate and deport them.
None of those measures apply to homegrown terrorists. "When we talk about the homegrown terrorist phenomenon, in most instances, these are people who are Canadian citizens. You cannot remove them anywhere," Mr. Hooper testified.
"We have two options," he added.
"We can work in collaboration with law enforcement to prosecute them or we can work to disrupt their activities."
"Having a jihadist father like Ahmed Said Khadr, to cite but one example, often leads to an atmosphere of extremism where the children are raised to see the justification of using violence to attain political goals," says a Canadian intelligence report.
1998 "You cannot stop us." A World Islamic Front letter is sent to police advising that a biological and chemical weapons attack would be launched in the Montreal subway system. A group of Algerians is arrested and deported.
1999 "In the summer of 1999, Samir Ait Mohamed and Ahmed Ressam discussed placing explosives in the Outremont suburb of Montreal because it was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood," the FBI says.
2001 "Special file for our brother Abu Bakr al-Albani on the nature of his mission. First, the mission. Gather information on ... the possibility of obtaining explosive devices inside Canada." -- August 2001 e-mail found on al-Qaeda computer in Kabul.
2001 "In the lead-up and immediate aftermath to 9/11... there was a conspiracy of eight individuals who had designs to execute an act of serious violence in the Toronto area," Jack Hooper, CSIS Deputy Director of Operations, states.
2002 "As you kill, you will be killed." -- Osama bin Laden in an audiotaped speech that threatened Canada.
2004 "Human Targets: We must target and kill the Jews and the Christians.... The grades of importance are as follows: Americans, British, Spaniards, Australians, Canadians, Italians," instructs Al Battar, an al-Qaeda training manual.
2005 "And now you will get news of what hurts you." A jihadists video production posted on the Internet repeats bin Laden's 2002 threat to Canada.
2006 "We have a bifurcated threat at this point -- the threat that comes to Canada from the outside as well as a homegrown threat, and the homegrown variants look to Canada to execute their targeting," Mr. Hooper warns.
Ran with fact box "Target: Canada" which has been appendedto the story.
Brampton Family members of some of the men facing terrorism-related charges - wives, mothers and fathers - met in the parking lot of a Brampton courthouse early this morning.
Standing behind a metal barricade police put up to seal off the court entrance, women dressed in burkas rubbed each other's backs to console one another.
"I think there are a lot of people here today who should not be involved in this," said Anser Farooq, a lawyer representing several of the accused. "I think they (the police) cast their net far too wide. We've been talking several lawsuits as a result of this action," he said.
Security at the Hurontario St. courthouse was high.
More than two dozen local and provincial police officers were guarding the courthouse when the families arrived.
Snipers wearing camouflage were posted on the roof of the main building and on the roof of an adjacent building that normally houses family court.
Members of the Peel police tactical team tightly controlled traffic entering the parking lot, and an officer with a submachinegun was posted in front of a roundabout leading to the main entrance.
OPP bomb sniffing dogs were also on scene, and as early as 8 a.m., police could be seen traversing the hallways of the courthouse sweeping the building for explosives.
Pointing at snipers on the roof, Farooq, who would not name his clients, said: "This is ridiculous. They've got soldiers here with guns. This is going to completely change the atmosphere."
Families waiting at the courthouse finally got a chance to see the detainees when they were brought before a justice of the peace around 3:30 p.m.
Handcuffed to one another and wearing leg irons the detainees stood silently while the justice of the peace remanded them into custody until June 6 when they are scheduled to reappear.
Through their lawyers, some complained about the conditions where they were held Friday night and asked that they be given copies of the Qur'an while in custody.
Family members sitting on packed court benches bowed their heads and broke into tears, in some cases, when the detainees were brought into the courtroom.
The detainees were ordered not to communicate with each other or anyone else in the courtroom. Still, at least one female family member stood up and moved towards the prisoner's box.
"I want to see him," the woman said before she was sharply ordered to take her seat.
Earlier, the Ajax Pickering police station turned into an armed fortress as the anti-terror squads used its underground cells to house 13 of the suspects awaiting their court appearances.
Local residents on their way to shop at the busy commercial corner of Brock Rd and Kingston Rds. yesterday came under the gaze of heavily armed officers guarding the station..
The action started at Pickering's 19 Division shortly after 7:30 p.m. Friday when officers from various police services and CSIS started bringing in people arrested in a major terrorism swoop across the GTA.
Dozens of officers, some in uniforms, some in the nondescript attire of undercover officers, watched as unmarked police vehicles ranging from mid-size cars to SUV's started bringing in suspects.
Late this morning, after one officer carried an armload of leg irons and handcuffs into the police station, the slow process of moving the suspects from Pickering to the Brampton courthouse began.
A big white prisoner transport vehicle, driven by a tactical unit officer, parked as close as possible to garage doors leading to the basement cellblock.
Then one by one, over a period of and hour and a half, the suspects, each flanked by two officers, shuffled out of the door and into a side door of the police truck.
Overhead a police helicopter kept an eye on the entire proceedings, as the suspects got a brief glimpse of the outdoors on a rainy morning.
Journalists, some of whom spent the night trading furtive glances with the tactical unit officers, from the post office parking lot strained to see and photograph the suspects as they made the short walk to the van.
All of the suspects appeared to be co-operating with police as they did the slow shuffle peculiar to people wearing leg shackles and handcuffs. Their faces showed no emotion.
Shortly before noon, after a total of 13 male suspects had been loaded and the prisoner transport van, accompanied by two truck loads of tactical unit officers, left the station and headed north on Brock Rd. to Highway 407.
At a news conference earlier in the day, a CSIS official said a series of terrorist attacks plotted against unspecified targets in southern Ontario were "inspired by Al Qaeda," adding that the ring of suspects arrested posed a "real and serious" threat.
Three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a commonly used fertilizer used to make explosives, were recovered by police, who say that's three times the amount used in the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma that killed 168 people.
"It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack," RCMP assistant commissioner Mike McDonell told a news conference in Toronto.
"If I can put this in context for you, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people was completed with only one tonne of ammonium nitrate."
"This group posed a real and serious threat," he added. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts."
A source who asked not to be named said information provided by U.S. officials played a part in the Canadian arrests.
An FBI affidavit alleges Amercians Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, both from the Atlanta region, travelled to Toronto in March 2005, meeting with others of interest to U.S. authorities.
The men supposedly discussed terrorist training and bomb plots against military facilities and oil refineries.
FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said today there are apparent links between the two American visitors and the police sweep in Canada.
"There is preliminary indication that some of the Canadian subjects may have had limited contact with the two people recently arrested from Georgia," Kolko said in a statement.
"As always, we will work with our international partners to review any intelligence gathered and will conduct any appropriate investigation."
In an interview, Kolko said the United States and Canada have been co-operating on this case for some time.
"We have established a working relationship with the Canadians in the prevention of terrorism. And it's common for us to share information on a routine basis."
The RCMP arrested and charged 12 men and another five people under the age of 18.
Of the adults, six are from Mississauga, four are from Toronto and two are from Kingston in the eastern part of the province.
Most were Canadian citizens or residents. Police described them as coming from a broad "strata" of society. Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed. The adults range in age from 19 to 43.
Rocco Galati, lawyer for two of the Mississauga suspects, said Ahmad Ghany is a 21-year-old health sciences graduate from McMaster University in Hamilton. He was born in Canada, the son of a medical doctor who emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago in 1955.
Shareef Abdelhaleen is a 30-year-old unmarried computer programmer of Egyptian descent, Galati said. He emigrated from Egypt at the age of 10 with his father who is now an engineer on contract with Atomic Energy of Canada, the lawyer said.
In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the foiled plot and arrests showed Canada's security and intelligence measures worked "today."
"These individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of terrorism against their own country and their own people," Harper said.
"Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. Through the work and co-operation of the RCMP, CSIS, local law enforcement and Toronto's Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, acts of violence by extremist groups may have been prevented.
"Today, Canada's security and intelligence measures worked. Canada's new government will pursue its efforts to ensure the national security of all Canadians."
The suspects were to appear in a Brampton court this afternoon, where the police presence was so intense it resembled an armed camp.
Police refused to say what the terror suspects considered targets, although officials ruled out the TTC.
The suspects were arrested Friday night in a massive sweep in co-operation with an Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, or INSET.
INSET teams are made up of members of the RCMP, CSIS, federal agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and provincial and municipal police services.
Toronto Mayor David Miller said he was told by Police Chief Bill Blair several months ago that a suspected homegrown terror cell was being investigated.
"I was relieved that police had discovered the activities at a very early stage," he told a news conference. "I was relieved on behalf of Torontonians because I knew because of the police activities that if there was an actual threat they would be able to stop it before anything serious happened."
Luc Portelance, of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the suspects were all adherents of a violent ideology.
"For various reasons, they appear to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by Al Qaeda," Portelance said, although officials stressed there's no direct link between those charged to the terrorist network.
He also said he didn't believe the alleged plot had any relation to Canada's military role in Afghanistan.
The dramatic events raised the chilling prospect of a terrorist assault on Canadian soil — which authorities have feared since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
"This is the largest counter-terrorism operation and arrests in Canada since the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the amendment of the Criminal Code to better define terrorism," Portelance said.
"This operation in no way reflects negatively on any specific community or ethnocultural group in Canada. Terrorism is a dangerous ideology, and a global phenomenon. As yesterday's arrests demonstrate, Canada is not immune from this ideology."
John Thompson, a security specialist with the MacKenzie Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank, said the explosives seized by police would fuel up to three "truck bombs."
"That's enough for a really, really big truck bomb. Probably two or three of them," said Thompson.
"So when the police said they weren't focused on the subway I believe them — you really can't use a truck bomb on a subway station. But if you're trying to collapse a building, a truck bomb is perfect for it," he said.
With files from Canadian Press