'We Came To You With Slaughter'

Quebec Terror Suspect; Berated Muslims online for not fighting jihad

Stewart Bell And Graeme Hamilton, National Post

MONTREAL - On the Internet, he was known as Ashraf. It means noble in Arabic.

But the hundreds of incendiary messages he posted to pro-al-Qaeda Web sites were anything but.From his computer in Quebec, Ashraf disseminated articles that berated Muslims for not fighting jihad; called for war until "religion will be for Allah alone"; and bluntly advised the West that, "We came to you with slaughter."

Yesterday, Said Namouh, 34, a landed immigrant from Quebec, appeared briefly in a Montreal courtroom, accused of working with an Austrian extremist to plot a truck bombing in Europe.

The RCMP said Mr. Namouh used the alias Ashraf, and a U.S. terrorism research group said Mr. Namouh and the on-line Ashraf who appears regularly on jihadist Internet forums are one and the same.

"It's definitely him," said Rita Katz, Director of the SITE Institute, a terrorism research company that monitors the "on-line jihadist community" for government and corporate clients.

"I am confident that the member by the name Ashraf that SITE found as a member of Global Islamic Media Front is the same Ashraf who was arrested by the Canadians."

She said Ashraf was "a prominent and senior" member of the GIMF, an international network of al-Qaeda sympathizers who translate, repackage and disseminate the propaganda of Islamist terrorist groups.

Through the GIMF's on-line forum, Ashraf communicated with Mohammed Mahmoud, the alleged leader of the group's German branch who was arrested in Vienna on Wednesday along with two other suspects. The RCMP accuses Ashraf of conspiring with Mr. Mahmoud to detonate a bomb.

On other jihadist message boards, Ashraf switched to different aliases. But while he has been charged with planning an attack, what he mostly did was spread propaganda.

He distributed links to videos by al-Qaeda deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Azzam the American. In one posting, he reacted to a suicide bombing in Iraq with the message: "May God defeat the crusaders and the Shia." Said Ms. Katz, "A lot of what he was doing on-line was in support of the Islamic State of Iraq."

Growing up in Kenitra, Morocco, Mr. Namouh was not a religious zealot, his brother said yesterday from the port city, built by the French on the Sebou River.

"He did not pray, and he sometimes drank alcohol when he was in Morocco," Jamal Namouh told the National Post. "I do not think my brother could have done that."

In 2003, Mr. Namouh immigrated to Canada after marrying Carole Lessard, a waitress from Maskinonge, about 100 kilo-metres northeast of Montreal.

The couple divorced last year, and in March, 2006,Mr. Namouh rented a basement apartment in the Trois-Rivieres home of Josee Boudreault, who described her ex-tenant as a kind man.

"He would buy clothing to give to people in need," she said.

Contrary to the picture painted by his brother, his landlady said Mr. Namouh prayed regularly and abstained from drinking alcohol. He never ate meals with her family because he observed a strict Halal diet, she said.

She said she evicted him last month because he was not good at housekeeping. He never came back to collect his belongings, so she put them in his red Volkswagen Jetta, which remains parked outside her house. In recent weeks, he had returned to live with his ex-wife in Maskinonge, where he was arrested on Wednesday morning.

The arrest followed a joint investigation by Canadian and Austrian counter-terrorism authorities. Mr. Namouh is believed to be just one of several GIMF members operating from Canada.

"Mr. Namouh conspired with an individual in Austria to explode a car bomb," Crown prosecutor Pierre Labelle told reporters after the bearded suspect appeared briefly in court yesterday dressed in jeans and a stained white T-shirt. "At the moment, those are the only elements I can reveal. Obviously, the investigation is ongoing."

A police search has turned up documents but no explosives, RCMP Corporal Sylvain L'Heureux said. Mr. Namouh was already facing a break-and-enter charge related to an incident in Shawinigan last July.*

Residents in the sleepy town of Maskinonge were astounded by news of the terrorism-related arrest. "My jaw hit the ground when I heard that, just like everyone in the municipality," Mayor Michel Clement said. "But it's an isolated case. There is no al-Qaeda cell living here in Maskinonge."

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