The dramatic arrests of Saad Khalid and Saad Gaya, members of the “Toronto 18” terrorist group that was planning to detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto in 2006, was captured on a video released by the court. The video is among dozens of Crown exhibits that form the case against Zakaria Amara, who admitted on October 8 he was the leader of the bomb plot. An Ontario judge approved their release, allowing Canadians to view them for the first time.
The videos show the terrorists testing an electronic detonator and meeting in the dark. Also released was a video of a test explosion conducted by the RCMP, which built and detonated a bomb using the same formula as the terrorists. The result is a huge blast that flipped a metal shipping container.
Amara, 24, pleaded to two counts of terrorism and is to be sentenced in January. Khalid, Gaya and Ali Dirie have also pleaded guilty and another man, Nishanthan Yogakrishnan, was convicted. Another six are awaiting trial.
Saad Khalid, 23, who pleaded guilty in the so-called Toronto 18 conspiracy, was credited with seven years for time in pretrial custody. He will spend a maximum of seven more years in prison. Khalid can apply for parole in two years and four months. Justice Bruce Durno called terrorism “the most vile form of criminal conduct” and said while Khalid was not the prime mover behind the bomb plot, he had nonetheless, played a significant role.
Khalid was caught in a police sting on June 2, 2006, when hundreds of police swept across Toronto to round up more than a dozen young Muslim men. He was caught unloading boxes marked “ammonium nitrate” from the back of a truck and later admitted he knew the fertilizer was intended to be used to construct truck bombs to be detonated in the downtown core. He pleaded guilty in May 2009.
Khalid was a target of an RCMP undercover investigation called Project Osage, Canada’s most high-profile counter-terrorism operation since the 9/11 attacks. Eighteen suspects were arrested but charges against seven were eventually stayed. Nine adults are scheduled to go on trial early next year. A fund established to pay for Khalid’s education following his release has raised $63,000.
It was a scheme to bomb downtown Toronto that even a confessed conspirator, 22-year-old Saad Khalid, now acknowledges as “a despicable crime.” Prosecutors say the ringleaders of the so-called “Toronto 18” debated whether to plant metal chips in bombs to maximize the number of people injured – and spoke of their coordinated explosions dwarfing the impact of the 2005 London subway bombings that killed 50 commuters.
Khalid asked a Canadian Superior Court judge for clemency during sentencing. Having already pleaded guilty to involvement in the foiled bomb plot, he became the first person arrested to speak of the crime. “I am not a lunatic who is hell-bent on destruction of Western civilization,” said the middle-class McMaster University student. His mistake, he said, arose from a “disagreement on the issue of Canadian foreign policy, specifically Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.” He also told Mr. Justice Bruce Durno he has a better understanding of Islam since being jailed.