RCMP behind bomb material
Massive sweep | Investigators controlled the sale and transport of
three tonnes of ammonium nitrate in an undercover probe of an
alleged homegrown terrorist cell
Police say they moved in quickly to avert attacks in southern Ontario
Jun. 4, 2006. 07:57 AM
MICHELLE SHEPHARD AND ISABEL TEOTONIO
The delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate to a group
suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in southern Ontario was part
of an undercover police sting operation, the Toronto Star has
The RCMP said yesterday that after investigating the alleged
homegrown terrorist cell for months, they had to move quickly Friday
night to arrest 12 men and five youths before the group could launch
a bomb attack on Canadian soil.
Sources say investigators who had learned of the group's alleged
plan to build a bomb were controlling the sale and transport of the
massive amount of fertilizer, a key component in creating
explosives. Once the deal was done, the RCMP-led anti-terrorism task
force moved in for the arrests.
At a news conference yesterday morning, the RCMP displayed a sample
of ammonium nitrate and a crude cell phone detonator they say was
seized in the massive police sweep when the 17 were taken into
custody. However, they made no mention of the police force's
involvement in the sale.
"It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack," said RCMP
assistant commissioner Mike McDonell. "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 is a popular fertilizer, but when mixed with fuel
oil it can create a powerful explosive.
Standing behind McDonell were the chiefs of police from Toronto and
Durham, York and Peel regions, as well as officials with the Ontario
Provincial Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
representing about 400 people involved with the investigation of the
"This group posed a real and serious threat," said McDonell,
speaking near a table with seized evidence such as a 9-mm Luger
handgun, military fatigues and two-way radios. "It had the capacity
and intent to carry out these acts."
The suspects were allegedly planning to launch attacks in southern
Ontario, but officials would not specify targets. Nor would they say
if attacks were considered imminent.
However, they did say the TTC was not a target. Sources told the
Star that the Toronto headquarters of Canada's spy agency on Front
St., adjacent to the CN Tower, was on the group's alleged list.
The names of the 12 adult suspects now in custody were made public
yesterday, but identities of the youths under the age of 18 cannot
be released, according to Canadian laws protecting minors. Of the
adults, six are from Mississauga; four from Toronto and two were
already incarcerated in Kingston on gun smuggling charges.
The charges laid against the men included participating in or
contributing to the activity of a terrorist group, including
training and recruitment; providing or making available property for
terrorist purposes; and the commission of indictable offences,
including firearms and explosives offences for the benefit of or in
association with a terrorist group.
Charged are Fahim Ahmad, 21; Jahmaal James, 23; Amin Mohamed
Durrani, 19; and Steven Vikash Chand, 25, all of Toronto; Zakaria
Amara, 20; Asad Ansari, 21; Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30; Ahmad Mustafa
Ghany, 21; Saad Khalid, 19; and Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, all of
Mississauga; and Mohammed Dirie, 22 and Yasin Abdi Mohamed, 24, who
are incarcerated in Kingston.
As officials spoke with reporters, the suspects were being loaded
into unmarked vehicles at the Ajax-Pickering police station, where
they had spent the night. Wearing leg irons and handcuffs, they were
taken to a Brampton courtroom in groups of between two and six to
appear before a justice of the peace.
Anser Farooq, a lawyer who represents five of the accused, pointed
at snipers on the roof of the courthouse and said: "This is
ridiculous. They've got soldiers here with guns. This is going to
completely change the atmosphere.
"I think (the police) cast their net far too wide," he said, adding
his clients are considering suing law enforcement agencies.
The father of one accused, Mohammed Abdelhaleen, spoke outside the
courthouse after his son's appearance, saying there is "no
validation" to any of the charges against any of the suspects.
"I have no idea what this is," said the distraught father. "I'm sure
it's going to come to nothing. We're playing a political game here.
I hope the judicial system realizes this."
With quivering lips, the father said he was in "a very bad place
right now. The damage is already done."
Around the same time, Karl Nickner of the Canadian Council on
American-Islamic Relations issued a statement that he is
confident "the justice system will accord these individuals
transparency, due process and the presumption of innocence."
"We stand behind our security forces and the Canadian government in
their desire to protect Canada," said the executive director. "As
Canadian Muslims, we unequivocally condemn terrorism in all of its
It's still unclear how the group of suspects is connected and police
yesterday offered few details of its alleged activities. But sources
close to the investigation told the Star that the investigation
began in2004 when CSIS began monitoring fundamentalist Internet
sites and their users.
They later began monitoring a group of young men, and the RCMP
launched a criminal investigation. Police allege the group later
picked targets and plotted attacks.
Last winter some members of the group, including the teenagers, went
to a field north of the city, where they allegedly trained for an
attack and made a video imitating warfare.
Sources said some of the younger members forged letters about a
bogus school trip to give to their parents so they could attend.
Police said there were no known connections to Al Qaeda or
international terrorist organizations, but that the group was
homegrown, meaning the suspects were Canadian citizens, or long-time
residents and had allegedly become radicalized here.
This type of extremism was blamed for the suicide attacks in London
last July which claimed the lives of 52 commuters travelling on the
subway and a double-decker bus.
"They appear to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired
by Al Qaeda," said Luc Portelance of CSIS, adding there is no direct
link to the network.
John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute said he has long warned
officials about the possibility of homegrown terrorists and what he
dubbed the "jihad generation."
"There's been a focus on (recruiting) younger Muslims, especially
those who were mostly raised here," said Thompson, who is director
of the Toronto-based think tank.
Recruiters, or "ideological conditioners," he said, have been
actively seeking members in Toronto-area mosques, community centres
and schools since 2002.
Officials have not linked the suspects to terror cells abroad, but
Portelance was quick to point out the investigation is ongoing.
Sources say the cases of two men from Georgia, now in custody in the
U.S. facing terrorism charges, are connected to alleged members of
the Canadian group.
Yesterday, officials offered few details about the suspects or how
they met, saying only they come from a "variety of backgrounds" and
represented a broad strata, including students, the employed and
"It is important to know that this operation in no way reflects
negatively on any specific community or ethnocultural group in
Canada," said Portelance. "Terrorism is a dangerous ideology, and a
global phenomenon. ... Canada is not immune from this ideology."
When asked why Canadians would want to attack targets in Canada,
Portelance said: "Clearly, they're motivated by some of the things
we see around the world," he said.
"They're against the Western influences in Islamic countries and
have an adherence to violence to reach a political objective. But as
far as the specific motivators, I think they probably change from
individual to individual."
Speaking in Ottawa at an enrolment ceremony for 225 new Canadian
military recruits, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his views.
"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."
With files from Jessica Leeder, Harold Levy and Tonda MacCharles
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