17 Suspected Terrorists Arrested in Canada
June 3, 2006; 11:38 AM
TORONTO, June 3 -- Canadian police and intelligence agents say they foiled a "series of terrorist attacks" by a group that had obtained three tons of explosive fertilizer -- more than the amount used in the Oklahoma City bombings -- to attack targets in Ontario.
Twelve men -- described as "mainly Canadian citizens" -- and five juveniles were arrested in a series of raids Friday night at locations in the outlying suburbs of Toronto in enclaves for immigrant groups in Canada. The men, all with Arabic names, were mostly in their 20s.
Police say they seized weapons, walkie-talkies, and a large quantity of ammonium nitrate, the same chemical used to make a fertilizer bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 persons.
Police refused to identify the targets of the alleged bomb plot or discuss details of the plan. Reports in the Canadian press said the investigators moved because the bombing was evident, and targets included large public buildings. Authorities said it was the biggest sweep conducted under Canada's anti-terrorism laws, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Mike McDonell, an assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said at a press conference the arrested men were "planning to commit a series of terrorist attacks against solely-Canadian targets in southern Ontario." They had acquired all the components of the bomb, he said.
"This group posed a real and serious intent. They had the capacity and intent to carry out an attack," he said. He said the group had trained together, and the arrests show that "Canada is susceptible to criminal terrorist activities as much as any country."
The investigation, which McDonell said involved more than 400 persons, also included Canada's intelligence agency, the Canada Security and Intelligence Agency.
Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations for CSIS, said the arrested men "are Canadian residents from a variety of backgrounds. For various reasons, they appear to become adherents of virulent ideology inspired by al-Qaeda." But McDonell later suggested investigators had found no direct connection with al-Qaeda.
The men, dubbed "home-grown terrorists" by the Canadian media, were scheduled to appear in court later Saturday to hear terrorism-related charges. The subjects were held at a police station in Pickering, 18 miles west of downtown Toronto, with heavy security posted outside the building. Police said they were not permitted to give any information about the five juveniles.
Canadian reports said the raids were the consequence of the arrests by the FBI of two Georgia men in April. At the time, the FBI announced the two men had met with others in Toronto to plan attacks.