Toronto terror plot detailed in court

Toronto Star 

 A track leads through land in Ramara Township northeast of Orillia, where the accused men are said to have held a military-style training camp.

Attack was to be bigger than London bombings, expected evidence shows

The "shocking and sensational" inner workings of an alleged homegrown terror cell were unveiled yesterday in a Brampton court – and included the plotting of an attack "much greater" in scale than the London 2005 bombings that killed 52 people.

The "shocking and sensational" inner workings of an alleged homegrown terror cell were unveiled yesterday in a Brampton court – and included the plotting of an attack "much greater" in scale than the London 2005 bombings that killed 52 people.


In a document made public for the first time, the Crown painted a broad picture of the expected evidence in the trial of a youth who pleaded not guilty to belonging to a terrorist group. The trial opened yesterday.

According to the allegations, the so-called Toronto 18 were attempting to secure a safe house to store weapons and practise military drills, and embarking on a mission to destroy the West – one they should be willing to die for.

Details of the alleged plot, which also included storming Parliament Hill and beheading politicians, emerged in a factum filed by the Crown that described the case against the accused as "shocking and sensational."

The document contains transcripts of wiretaps and videotapes that include one conversation in which one of the accused speaks of the group's ambitions.

"They're probably expecting what happened in London or something," he said. "... Some bombing in a subway kills 10 people and everybody gets deported. We're not doing that. ... So our thing it's, it's much, much greater on a scale ... you do it once and you make sure they can never recover again."

In arguing for a publication ban, the Crown said the evidence of these violent schemes and aspirations are so disturbing they could prejudice the future trials of the 14 adults who are also charged with belonging to this group. The accused were among 18 adults and youths arrested in a massive police sweep in 2006 for allegedly belonging to an Al Qaeda inspired cell. Charges against three youths have been stayed. Of the adults, 10 remain in jail and four are out on bail.

In response to concerns raised by the Crown, as well as defence lawyers representing some of the adults, the judge banned the publication of any names and a small portion of the allegations.

Until yesterday, all evidence in these cases was covered by other publication bans. The expected evidence remains to be either admitted or rejected during the youth's trial.

While some of the allegations have already surfaced in public reports, a great deal in the factum had never been published. Some of that expected evidence includes:

  • Videos of terrorist indoctrination, in which the accused are exhorted to wage battle in the new empire of "Rome" in North America, "whether we get arrested, whether we get killed."
  • Wiretap surveillance in which they discuss their desire to "establish the religion of Allah and to get rid of the oppressors" and the need for funds to finance their goals of building a "team" to "go make an attack."
  • The construction of a "radio frequency remote-control detonator" that needed to be improved because its range was nine metres.
  • Allegations the accused attended two training camps. One was a 12-day camp near the town of Washago, Ont., where they practised military-style exercises in camouflage gear and undertook firearms training with a 9-mm firearm. The second was a two-day camp at the Rockwood Conservation Area, where they donned camouflage clothing and made a propaganda-style video of their military drills.

According to the Crown's factum, the alleged terrorists first popped onto the radar of police in August 2005, when two of the adults were stopped at the Canada-U.S. border in a rented vehicle while attempting to smuggle firearms and ammunition into the country.

Based on the rental agreement, weapons history and intercepted telephone conversations the duo had while in jail, police expanded their investigation. They homed in on a few individuals and contacted Mubin Shaikh to act as a police agent.

Shaikh, a well-known member of the city's Muslim community, was told to attend a banquet hall on Nov. 27 and make contact with two of the adults. It was there that Shaikh met the youth now on trial.

Topics of discussions between Shaikh and the adults included the worldwide oppression of Muslims and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, accompanied by an adult making a "shooting gesture." While there, Shaikh hugged one of the men and felt what he believed to be a firearm. Before leaving, an adult showed Shaikh a magazine with bullets, which he referred to as "hollow points, cop killers," according to the Crown's factum.

A few days later, Shaikh and an adult drove to a park, where he laid out his plans to attack various targets, including the Parliament buildings. He said he needed to assemble a group and planned to organize an outdoor training camp. Because Shaikh had military experience, he agreed to be an instructor at the so-called camp.

In late December, 13 men and youths drove to a rural wooded area about 150 kilometres north of the city, where they participated in military marches, obstacle course runs and firearms training. Shaikh used a 9-mm gun brought by an adult to teach the others basic gun safety.

The prosecution alleges the true nature of the camp was revealed by an adult in a series of lectures he delivered to the group – lectures that were videotaped and subsequently found by police when they executed a covert search warrant at the home of another adult in May 2006.

In the video, the man is seated in the dark under what appears to be a tent. He addresses the group passionately, explaining: "Our mission's greater, whether we get arrested, whether we get killed. ... Rome has to be defeated. And we have to be the ones that do it." He goes on to say, "We already started striking cause you know what, this training is striking at them."

On Feb. 4, 2006, Shaikh and an adult were joined by two others as they drove to Opasatika, a rural town near Timmins. There they had hoped to set up a safe house where they could practise drills and store weapons, but decided against it, the Crown alleges.

On the way back to Toronto they discussed Operation Badr, a plot to storm Parliament Hill, take politicians hostage and demand the removal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan and the release of Muslim prisoners in federal institutions, police allege. If their demands weren't met, they'd "kill everybody," said an adult, who also reminded the others that the prime minister wasn't "Paul Loser" or "Paul Martin" – as they suggested – but was in fact "the other guy, Harper."

After their return, an adult reported he had built the "first radio frequency remote-control detonator," but pointed out it only had a range of 30 feet (nine metres), "which is not good." In response, another man pointed out "30 feet away? So you have to get blown up? Might as well sit in the car." He explained that if they could get the detonator to work from 300 metres, "then we'll do it." He then said that when the bomb went off on Front St., innocent people would be killed, which would be "too bad for them," according to the Crown's factum.

On March 5, two of the adults met with a man named Talib, hoping he would help them generate funds to purchase military assault rifles and other weapons, which one of them had already paid a down payment. As they attempted to recruit Talib, one man expressed their desire to establish "the religion of Allah," adding "we're not just a bunch of young guys." The other spoke of the "global fight."

Meanwhile, a second, more advanced training camp was in the works and took place at Rockwood May 20-22, police allege. A number of the accused attended, as well a man named Shal Syed, who later voluntarily met with investigators and offered a statement about an adult's comments and the group's activities.

Syed said an adult said the purpose of the camp was to "train" and to prepare for jihad. Again, an adult led a discussion circle inside a tent discussing so-called military strategies. One of the men asked Syed if he could teach others how to use firearms and grenades and whether he had access to such weapons. He also promised to show Syed recorded lectures given by Osama bin Laden.

On June 2, about 400 police officers conducted a series of arrests that garnered international headlines. On that day 17 men and youths were arrested. An 18th suspect was arrested two months later.

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