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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Officials Reveal Documents of Toronto Terrorism Plot

Detailing plans to storm Parliament Hill, behead politicians, of drill exercises in military tactics and weapons training, and plans to purchase weapons for their assault, the report shows how a cell of Canadian Muslims planned to bring Jihad to Toronto.

The document was released in Brampton court yesterday, outlining the investigation of a group that had intended to wage an attack in Toronto that would be "much larger" than the London bombings of 2005 in which 52 people were killed.

The documentation was presented for the first time yesterday in the Crown's case against a young man charged with involvement in a terrorist group. The youth has pled not guilty of the charges, which are damning.

Along with the outlines for storming Parliament Hill and the beheading of politicians, known as Operation Badr, the Crown also revealed evidence that the group know as the "Toronto 18" had attempted to secure safe-houses, military weapons and ammunition, and places to conduct military drills in preparation for a campaign that they "should be willing to die for." There were also transcripts of wire and videotaps presented as evidence, in which members discussed their plans for waging a campaign of terror on Toronto.

The document and the evidence to be presented in the case had been kept away from the public under a court ordered ban until yesterday, with the Crown arguing that for the information to be made available to the public could taint the trials of those indicted.

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.

After connecting the attempted smuggling incident and the car rental to certain telephone calls that investigators had intercepted, police officials managed to infiltrate the local Muslim community and had their informant make contact with two members of the terrorist cell. The cell members were eager to have what they believed was the assistance of the informer, Mubin Shaikh, whom they hoped to have help them with their military training in preparation for their planned operations. Shaikh was taken to a secluded area that the cell members had proposed to use as a training site, and reported that he was also shown "cop killer" bullets in a weapon magazine.

Over the next several months, until June, 2006, police and investigators continued to build their case against the group, recording fund raising activities for the purchase of weapons, attempts by group members to improvise radio controlled detonators for explosive devices, and the initial conducting of military training drills for the members of the group. Plans were also underway to find a site to conduct more advanced commando type operations drills at Rockwood.

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 2JUN06, over 400 police officers began the round up of the suspected cell members, bringing 17 adults and older teenagers into custody. The 18th suspect was apprehended two months later.

In an Editorial in The Australian dated 5JUL07, Irshad Manji asks why there are so many terrorists who come from well-educated, more affluent backgrounds instead of being "poor and dispossessed." According to Manji, the root of this is based in religious symbolism.

Again, we must confront religious symbolism. The blade is an implement associated with 7th-century tribal conflict. Wielding it as a sword becomes a tribute to the founding moment of Islam. Even the note stabbed into van Gogh's corpse, although written in Dutch, had the unmistakable rhythms of Arabic poetry. Let's credit Bouyeri with honesty: at his trial he proudly acknowledged acting from religious conviction.

Despite integrating Muslims far more adroitly than most of Europe, North America isn't immune. Last year in Toronto, police nabbed 17 young Muslim men allegedly plotting to blow up Canada's parliament buildings and behead the Prime Minister.

They called their campaign Operation Badr, a reference to prophet Mohammed's first decisive military triumph, the Battle of Badr. Clearly the Toronto 17 drew inspiration from religious history.

Manji goes on to call for moderate Muslims to speak out in a greater voice against the violence, and calls for reformations in Islam that would do away with the mindset of religious intolerance found to be so predominant in extremist sects of the religion.

Reinterpreting doesn't mean rewriting. It means rethinking words and practices that already exist, removing them from a 7th-century tribal time warp and introducing them to a 21st-century pluralistic context. Un-Islamic? God, no. The Koran contains three times as many verses calling on Muslims to think, analyse and reflect than passages that dictate what's absolutely right or wrong. In that sense, reform-minded Muslims are as authentic as moderates and quite possibly more constructive.

Perhaps, with the rising of moderates in Islam calling for reinterpretation, the world is on the verge of witnessing, in the 21st century, a reformation movement begin in the religion, such as Christianity underwent during the time of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church.

In the meantime, investigations such as the one in which the Toronto 18 are under trial for may become more common place in Western society.

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man