More arrests expected in Canadian bomb plot

More arrests were expected following the detention of 17 people over an alleged al-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb high-profile targets in Canada, a top police official said on Monday.

Amid media reports that the Canadian Parliament was on the group’s hitlist, Mike McDonell, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said: “This investigation is not finished.”

“We will be following every investigative lead we have to its conclusion and anybody that aided, facilitated, or participated in this terrorist event will be arrested and brought to the courts,” McDonell told CBC public television.

Twelve men and five youths detained in Ontario province on Friday and Saturday would appear in court on Tuesday to face charges over an alleged plan to stage a series of spectacular bomb attacks, officials said.

Police have refused to say what the targets were.

But media reports suggested the group had videotaped the CN Tower in Toronto, one of the world’s tallest structures, and planned to hit Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa and intelligence service offices in Toronto, as well as the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The group had acquired three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser ingredient that can be mixed with fuel to create explosive devices, police said.

The amount is three times what was used in the 1995 bombing of a US federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that killed 168 people.

“It was their intent to use it for a terrorist attack,” McDonell said. But police raids on what media said were a dozen locations prevented them from assembling bombs, he said.

“This group posed a real and serious threat.
It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts,” he noted.

Media reports said the group was detained in a sting operation after the RCMP itself delivered the fertiliser just before the raids.

Toronto police chief Bill Blair said the accused were not motivated by their Muslim faith, seeking to allay fears of an anti-Muslim backlash after vandals broke windows at a mosque late on Saturday.

But some local Muslim community representatives said the charges would be proved false. “This is an attack on the Muslim community,” Aly Hindy, an imam, had told reporters on Saturday.

Some community representatives questioned the timing of the arrests, less than a week after Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), warned Canada faced a growing threat from “homegrown terrorists”, particularly youth upset about the oppression of Muslims worldwide and Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan.

The investigation leading up to the raids began in 2004 after some youths caught the attention of Canada’s spy service while talking in an internet chat room espousing anti-Western views, according to reports.

In March 2005, two radical suspects now in US custody, Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, travelled to Toronto.

FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said that there had been apparent contacts “between certain suspects in Canada and two individuals recently charged in the United States”.

But officials denied the plotters targeted American soil. The National Post said on Monday that the Canadian group had set up an alleged terror training camp on an isolated property outside of Washago, a cottage community about 150km north of Toronto.

Local residents told the newspaper that about one year ago they began to notice men in camouflage clothing coming up for days or weeks at a time for “military training”, shooting automatic weapons after dark.

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day would only say information about such camps would come out later. - Sapa-AFP

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