Police look abroad for ties to alleged Canadian terror cell
TORONTO – Police said Monday more arrests are likely in an alleged plot to bomb buildings in Canada, while intelligence officers sought ties between the 17 suspects and Islamic terror cells in the United States and five other nations.A court said authorities had charged all 12 adults arrested over the weekend with participating in a terrorist group. Other charges included importing weapons and planning a bombing. The charges against five minors were not made public.The Parliament of Canada, in Ottawa, is believed to be among targets the group discussed. Toronto Mayor David Miller said CN Tower, a downtown landmark, and the city’s subway were not targets as had been the speculated in local media, but declined to identify sites that were.A Muslim prayer leader who knew the oldest suspect, 43-year-old Qayyum Abdul Jamal, told The Associated Press on Monday that Jamal’s sermons at a storefront mosque were “filled with hate” against Canada.Authorities said more arrests were expected, possibly this week, as police pursue leads about a group that they say was inspired by the violent ideology of the al-Qaida terror network.”We’ve by no means finished this investigation,” Mike McDonell, deputy commissioner for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told AP. “In fact, you might look at it that, really, we’re just starting with the arrests. We have a responsibility to follow every lead.”Although both Canadian and U.S. officials said over the weekend there was no indication the purported terror group had targets outside Ontario, McDonell told AP on Monday that there are “foreign connections,” but he would not elaborate.In Washington, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House, said President Bush spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the case Monday afternoon, but gave no specifics of what was discussed.”Prime Minister Harper called the president to update him on the situation involving the arrest of 17 individuals in Toronto who are charged with terrorism-related offenses,” spokesman Frederick Jones said.Responding to the arrests, the U.S. Border Patrol stepped up vigorous inspections of traffic entering the country from Canada and put agents on overtime on high alert along the 4,000-mile border, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar told reporters in Washington on Monday.A U.S. law enforcement official said investigators were looking for connections between those detained in Canada and suspected Islamic militants held in the United States, Britain, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Denmark and Sweden.American authorities have established that two men from Georgia who were charged this year in a terrorism case had been in contact with some of the Canadian suspects via computer, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.Prosecutors have said the Georgia men, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed, traveled to Washington to shoot “casing videos” of the Capitol and other potential targets.Sadequee, 19, a U.S. citizen who grew up near Atlanta, is accused of lying to federal authorities during an FBI terrorism investigation. Ahmed, 21, a Georgia Tech student, faces a charge he provided material support and resources for terrorism.In Atlanta, Ahmed’s lawyer, Jack Martin, told AP there may have been some connection between his client and the suspects, but he insisted it wasn’t part of any terrorism plot.”Other than having the possibility that they may have met at some point, I know of no indication that anyone believes my client had anything to do with what these guys were up to,” Martin said.A U.S. counterterrorism official said the 17 suspects in Canada are an example of a type of group that authorities have been concerned about for some time: self-organized, ad hoc cells of homegrown extremists, a development first seen in Britain.The official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Canada’s government rightfully considered the 17 a serious threat because there was evidence the group was far along in planning attacks.”It came to a point where our concern for the safety and security of the public far outweighed our appetite for collecting evidence,” said McDonell, the RCMP deputy commissioner.The U.S. counterterrorism official added there was no reason to believe the group had U.S. targets in mind, but also no reason to exclude the potential.Canadian police say there is no evidence the suspect group had ties to al-Qaida, but describe its members as being sympathetic to jihadist ideology. Officials are concerned that many of the 17 suspects were roughly 20 years old and had been radicalized in a short amount of time.The Ontario Court of Justice released details of the charges faced by the 12 adult men arrested Friday and Saturday. The men are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a bail hearing.Each is charged with one count of participating in a terrorist group.Three of them – Fahim Ahmad, 21, Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24 – also are charged with importing weapons and ammunition for the purpose of terrorist activity.Nine face charges of receiving training from a terrorist group, while four are charged with providing training. Six also are charged with intending to cause an explosion that could cause serious bodily harm or death.No information was released on the five young males arrested due to federal privacy laws that protect minors.Canadian media have reported that the suspects attended a training camp in Washago, a rural community 90 north of Toronto. The National Post quoted unidentified residents in the wooded area as saying they heard machine-gun fire and saw men dressed in camouflage carrying equipment.The Royal Canadian Mounted Police displayed evidence Saturday that included camouflage uniforms, flashlights, walkie-talkies and detonators, but have refused to confirm whether they were used at a training facility.Officials announced Saturday that the suspects were arrested after the group acquired three tons of ammonium nitrate, which can be mixed with fuel oil to make a powerful explosive. One-third that amount was used in the deadly bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.The Toronto Star reported that undercover Mounties delivered the substance to the group in a sting operation. The Star, citing unidentified sources, said the suspects actually received a harmless substance. Some people who know the suspects said they were astonished by the arrests.But Faheem Bukhari, a director of the Mississauga Muslim Community Center, said Jamal, the oldest suspect, had taken to giving hateful sermons and preaching intolerance to young Muslims at a small storefront mosque in Mississauga, a city near Toronto where six of the suspects lived.”These youth were very fun-loving guys, soccer-loving guys, and then all of sudden they were not associating with guys they used to,” Bukhari told AP, referring to some of the younger suspects.He said Jamal once told “the audience that the Canadian Forces were going to Afghanistan to rape women.”Canada has about 2,300 soldiers in southern Afghanistan to bolster Afghan reconstruction and combat Taliban militants.Bukhari’s description contrasted with the view of another prayer leader at the mosque, who said while Jamal was “aggressive” in his sermons but never promoted hatred or violence.”I will say that they were steadfast, religious people. There’s no doubt about it. But here we always preach peace and moderation,” Qamrul Khanson said Sunday.—-Associated Press reporters Mark Sherman and Katherine Shrader in Washington and Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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