Canada terror suspects not linked to India

The suspects come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and the majority are Canadian citizens.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2006 13:01 IST

There seems nothing tangible to link to India any of the 17 suspects arrested in Canada's first major terror plot, except for the 'Indian sounding' name of one -- and the ubiquitous love for Bollywood of a few others.

The suspects come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and the majority are Canadian citizens, according to Canadian media reports citing the local police. Most of them are in their late teens or early 20s but the eldest two are 30 and 43.

Among the young suspects are three close school friends -- Saad Khalid, Fahim Ahmad and Zakaria Amara.

In a 2005 video made by Khalid and other friends, he spoofed the stylised Bollywood films. Khalid donned a hijab for his role as a forlorn lover and in one scene is shown running in slow motion across a field with his arms outstretched.

The movie starring 19-year-old Khalid is a jarring contrast to the images now of the three friends in prison suits, alleged by police to be members of a home-grown terrorist cell.

Little is known about another suspect with an 'Indian sounding name,' Steven Vikash Chand, 25.

Chand alias Abdul Shakur had responded to a flyer at a Scarborough mosque and began renting a room in a basement about six months ago. He barely knew the people he lived with -- he entered through a separate side door -- and neighbours did not recognise his name.

Chand attended the Salaheddin Islamic Centre on Kennedy Road two or three times a week, according to mosque member Mohamed Ally. "He's innocent," Ally said, adding that Chand visited schools to help troubled youths find Islam.

His landlord Attique said Chand had been on welfare and that, for the first time since he moved in, he had not paid his rent on time. He had just started a job at a shop nearby, working until 11 pm on Friday, the night he was arrested.

Toronto Star said those who knew some of the suspects in the various communities where they lived say there was no doubt there were noticeable differences in their personalities in the last two years. They became activists for the plight of Muslims worldwide and allegedly felt Muslims were being targeted unfairly in Canada.

Much of that anger, the paper said citing sources close to the investigation, was allegedly directed at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the group listed the Toronto headquarters of CSIS, adjacent to the CN Tower, as one of its targets.

Many of the suspects were not devout Muslims when they were younger but later were drawn to the strict interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism, which is widely practised in Saudi Arabia but also has a strong following worldwide, including in Canada.

The CSIS and a host of other security agencies across the continent, stumbled upon the plot as they routinely monitored such sites, where talk may sometimes turn to buildings and bombs and bringing global jihad home to North America, to Canada, according to media reports from Toronto.

Four months after the surveillance began in the fall of 2004, two Americans, from the Atlanta area, popped onto the radar: Syed Haris Ahmed, a Pakistani native who has pleaded not guilty, arrived in the US with his family when he was about 12 and is now an American citizen, and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, born in Virginia and with roots in Bangladesh.

Ahmed and Sadequee had been communicating by email with the Canadian group, investigators allege, and in March 2005 the two visited Toronto, where, according to US court documents, they were to meet with "like-minded Islamists."

According to the Los Angeles Times, US authorities were also watching the two Americans, and at some point discovered communications between the men in Canada and Atlanta and other suspected terrorists overseas, including a group arrested in London last fall that counted among its members a computer specialist who used the Arabic word 'irhabi' -- for terrorist -- as his Internet handle, Irhabi007.

Officials and US court documents allege group members were scouting targets that included Canadian government buildings, American oil refineries, and a US tower that they believed controlled global positioning systems used in aviation.

The two Americans were charged in March and April, and are awaiting trial.

First Published: Jun 06, 2006 08:31 IST