17 nabbed on terrorism charges in Canada

Seventeen Canadian residents were arrested on charges of terrorism. They were inspired by Al Qaeda, police said.

india Updated: Jun 04, 2006 12:12 IST

Seventeen Canadian residents were arrested on terrorism charges. Theywere inspired by Al Qaeda, had amassed enough explosives to build huge bombs and were planning to blow up targets in densely populated Ontario, police said on Saturday.

The group possessed three tons of ammonium nitrate, or three times the amount used in the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City that killed 168. They were also preparing to make bombs, Mike McDonell, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said.

Police arrested 12 men and five young people. The adults were from Toronto and a suburb Mississauga, and from Kingston, Ontario.

At a news conference, police showed off a haul they described as bomb-making equipment, including white sacks of fertilizer, a cell phone in a box with wiring, a board apparently used for target practice, a computer hard drive and army fatigues.

"This group posed a real and serious threat," McDonell said. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out attacks. The modus operandi is very similar to other attacks that have taken place around the world and other threat of attacks."

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said in an e-mail: "There is preliminary indication that some of the Canadian subjects may have had limited contact with the two people recently arrested from (the US state of) Georgia."

In Atlanta, a 21-year-old man was arrested on March 23 for giving material support of terrorism. Later, a 19-year-old man was arrested in Bangladesh and returned to the United States, where he was charged with lying to federal officials.

The US Justice Department said the two suspects had traveled to Canada on March 13, 2005, to meet with Islamic extremists. The two "... met with three subjects of an FBI international terrorism investigation and discussed strategic locations in the United States suitable for a possible terrorist strike," a statement said.

Canadian police charged the adults, aged 19 to 43, and five youngsters under the age of 18, with terrorism-related offenses. The oldest was Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, of Mississauga, police said.

The suspects appeared on Saturday afternoon in a well-guarded courtroom in Brampton, a Toronto suburb, where police blocked off the street and officers with bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the area. Police snipers stood guard nearby.

Aly Hindy, an imam at a Toronto mosque, said he knew most of the accused and believed one or two were involved in criminal acts but not terrorism-related.

"One guy was doing some criminal activity, selling guns for money. But the problem is these days when a Muslim commits fraud, it becomes terrorism. When he commits stealing it becomes terrorism," he told reporters outside the courtroom.

Inside the courtroom, some family members sobbed and waited, while others attempted to speak or wave to the arrested men, who were brought in small groups and remanded in custody until next Tuesday.

"They're all residents of Canada and for the most part, they're all citizens." McDonell said. "They represent the broad strata of our community. Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed."

"For various reasons, they appear to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al Qaeda," said Luc Portelance, a senior official with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

There have been no Al Qaeda-type attacks in Canada. Although security services have long fretted about possible risks and the United States has urged more vigilance on the long border the two countries share.

US Homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff spoke with his Canadian counterpart Stockwell Day early on Saturday, said homeland security spokesman Russ Knocke.
Police say the group planned to target locations in southern Ontario, Canada's political and economic heart.

Police would not identify the targets, but media reports said they included at least one tourist site in Toronto.

Officials said the men had trained together in a camp in Canada. Media reports said the camp was located north of Toronto.

Canada, under its previous Liberal government, declined to join the US-led forces in Iraq, and many Canadians felt that helped their country stay off the Al Qaeda radar screen.

But the Liberals did send troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban there. Harper's Conservative government has extended that mission, despite rising casualty levels among Canadian troops.

First Published: Jun 04, 2006 12:12 IST