Canada terror bust: RCMP behind plot?

Yet again! As in the recent headline-grabbing terror bust in New York City, and as in the 1993 World Trade Center blast itself, it seems the terror plot itself emerged from police infiltrators… From the Toronto Star, June 4:

RCMP behind bomb material
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

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 learned.

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.”

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 group.

“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 forms.”

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 unemployed.

“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.”

See our last post on the Canadian front in the War on Terror. We’ll also bet the RCMP is using its new surveillance powers to keep track of First Nations activists as well.