Canada Holds 17 In Alleged Bomb Plot

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 4, 2006

TORONTO, June 3 -- Canadian intelligence agents and police have arrested 17 people who had amassed a huge cache of explosives and were ready to bomb public targets, authorities said Saturday.

The 12 men and five juveniles were seized in raids Friday night in the suburbs of Toronto. Police said the suspects, most of whom were believed to be Canadian citizens, had assembled three tons of ammonium nitrate and fashioned a cellphone into a detonator.

The bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 killed 168 people with two tons of the same chemical fertilizer packed in a truck.

Authorities declined to identify the group's planned targets, but a report in the Toronto Star said the sites included the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and the Toronto offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, near the famed CN Tower downtown.

The suspects appeared in a Toronto court Saturday to face charges under Canada's terrorism laws, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Authorities divulged few details about the men, who all had Arabic names and ranged in age from 19 to 43. Authorities said they would not discuss the juveniles.

Since the bombings of the London public transit system last summer, Canadian authorities have said they had no illusions that Canada was immune from attack. They warned of the hot anger in the radical fringes of the country's growing Muslim enclaves and said they believed the presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan had fanned those passions. They have said they also knew of clandestine contacts between Canadian Muslims and extremists, including two American Muslims arrested this year in Georgia on terrorism charges.

"An attack on Canadian soil is now probable," Canada's spy agency warned Parliament last month. A top official of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service last week repeated the warning to senators, emphasizing the threat posed by terrorists born and bred in Canada.

Police said the suspects had trained together outside Toronto. Although an intelligence official, Luc Portelance, said the group members were "adherents of a virulent ideology inspired by al-Qaeda," police acknowledged they had no evidence of a direct link to the terrorist group.

Instead, most of the suspects were young students or workers who fed on the political debates swirling around Canada's mosques and immigrant Muslim neighborhoods, according to what could be learned about the men and their communities. They sharpened their radicalism over the Internet without traveling to the Middle East.

"They are Canadians. They came to Canada at an early age or were born here," Toronto's mayor, David Miller, said Saturday. He questioned "how people would get sucked into this act."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that "these individuals were allegedly intent on committing acts of terrorism against their own country, and their own people. Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism."

Intelligence and security agents have been aware of some the suspects for nearly two years, according to reports and statements by officials here. The suspects allegedly met at a "training camp," according to police near Toronto, and made videotapes of their training.

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