Macleans – December 4, 201212 Comments
It has been almost seven years since police rounded up the so-called “Toronto 18,” thwarting a very real terrorist plot on Canadian soil. In time, the Crown and the courts separated the ringleaders from the stooges: charges were dropped against seven of the accused Muslims, while the other 11 were convicted and punished according to their level of guilt. Of the four core members who tried to detonate simultaneous truck bombs in downtown Toronto—a “spine-chilling” plot, as one judge said—two are now serving life sentences.
The answer, says Ontario’s highest court, is an emphatic no. “To impose on the police an obligation to ensure that undercover operators infiltrating a potential terrorist camp be equipped with some sort of strategy to warn youth (who may or may not be present) of the potential error of their ways, is neither tenable nor realistic,” the court concluded. “The prospects of such a strategy subverting the investigation, and possibly endangering the safety of the operative, are limitless.”
The ruling is a resounding victory for the RCMP—and vindication for Mubin Shaikh, the controversial civilian informant who was paid $300,000 to infiltrate the inner circle. The pinnacle of Shaikh’s undercover work was a now-infamous winter “training camp” near Orillia, Ont., where a dozen participants spent two weeks marching in the snow and learning to fire a semi-automatic handgun. One of those campers was a 17-year-old who had recently converted to Islam—and who would later become the youngest of the group convicted and sentenced (to 30 months).
The National Post – February 16, 2012
A newly released intelligence report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warns that teenagers are being exposed to Islamist extremism in Canadian high schools. CSIS says that in two recent cases, suspects charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act “appear to have been radicalized in part while attending Canadian secondary school institutions.”
The appeal of extremism among youths is a key concern to Canadian counterterrorism officials, particularly since the 2006 arrests of the Toronto 18, whose members plotted truck bombings in Toronto and an assault on the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Since then, a handful of youths have left — or tried to leave — Canada for Pakistan and Somalia to join terrorist groups.
The Toronto Star – July 28, 2011
Ali Dirie, a member of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist cell who is scheduled to be released from prison this fall has renounced his right to a parole hearing. Dirie was among 18 people named in 2006 for plotting to cause bloodshed and panic in Canada by bombing nuclear power plants and RCMP headquarters and attacking Parliament. The Somali-born Dirie was arrested in 2005 and was already in prison when police moved in on the group in 2006, but he continued to recruit and work for the group while behind bars.
Dirie is scheduled to be released in October. He was scheduled to appear before parole officials in mid-August. Last year Dirie said that while he opposed Canada’s military role in Afghanistan, he had come to realize that a violent response was unnecessary. While he still believed in jihad, he said he favoured a political and peaceful version to get his point across instead of using terrorist acts like blowing up buildings.
News Agencies – March 4, 2011
Shareef Abdelhaleem has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years for his role in a Canadian homegrown terror plot. Justice Fletcher Dawson delivered the final sentence in the so-called “Toronto 18” case in Brampton, Ontario. Because Abdelhaleem was arrested in 2006, he will technically be eligible for parole in just over five years.
Abdelhaleem became involved with the group because he hoped to make money from a terrorist attack and was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006. He was the right-hand man of Zakaria Amara, an Islamist extremist who masterminded the plot and is now serving a life sentence.
Charges were eventually dropped against seven of the accused. The remaining members of the group either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial and have all been sentenced. Abdelhallem was convicted in January 2010, then argued unsuccessfully he had been entrapped. Before sentencing, Abdelhaleem told Dawson he felt he was being discriminated against treated more harshly as a “brown Muslim” terrorist than if he was a white “extremist.” “I am not denying that what I did was wrong,” Abdelhaleem said, reading from a sheaf of papers. “I am unconditionally sorry.”
November, 26 2010
A member of the so-called Toronto 18, who tried to raise funds for an al-Qaeda-inspired homegrown cell, rapped about the “predicaments of my present times” before being sentenced in a Brampton court 26 November 2010 to 10 years. Steven Chand, 29, who was a trainer at a camp to weed out potential recruits and who helped scout a safehouse, appeared relaxed in the prisoner’s box as Justice Fletcher Dawson delivered his ruling. The Scarborough man, who has been behind bars since his arrest in June 2006, was given slightly more than two-for-one credit of time served, which means he will serve an additional seven months and 10 days.
He faced a maximum term of life imprisonment for the fraud charge and up to 10 years for participating in the terror cell – with sentences to run consecutively – but the Crown and defence had agreed, early in the process, that an eight-year sentence would be sufficient. “Mr. Chand was ideologically committed to the cause… He was serious,” said Dawson, who also recommended Chand seek de-radicalization counseling. Before the ruling Chand read from a prepared statement asking the judge to sentence him to time served. He ended with a poem, or rhyming lyrics, which he delivered as a rap.
The Toronto Star – October 25, 2010
Fahim Ahmad, the convicted leader of the so-called Toronto 18, was sentenced October 25th to 16 years in prison for his role in a plot to launch a campaign of terrorist attacks in Canada. In imposing the sentence, Justice Fletcher Dawson granted him a time served credit of eight years and nine months. The 26-year-old Toronto man, a married father of two young children, won’t be eligible to seek parole for 3 1/2 years. Under his direction, plans were made to attack nuclear stations and storm Parliament, taking politicians hostage until Canada gave into his demands to pull troops from Afghanistan. He and seventeen other young men were arrested on June 2, 2006.
Toronto Star – September 28, 2010
The ringleader of the so-called Toronto 18 should be given a 10- to 12-year sentence because he was merely a “wannabe” with “grandiose ideas,” whose talk of storming Parliament Hill and acquiring weapons “amounted to fantasy,” a court was told on September 28th. “He is not that jihadi serial killer,” defence lawyer Dennis Edney said at the sentencing hearing of Fahim Ahmad, 25, who was arrested in June 2006 for participating in a cell that plotted to attack Canadian targets. He and co-counsel Bella Petrouchinova suggested Ahmad receive two-for-one credit for time already served in pre-trial custody. They also requested Ahmad be sent to a prison nearby so his family, which includes a wife and two children, can visit often.
While incarcerated, Ahmad has abandoned the flawed interpretations of Islam he learned as a teen when frequenting theologically conservative mosques in Mississauga and Scarborough, said Edney. “He now favours a broader interpretation of the Qu’ran. That is essential in my view,” said the lawyer, adding his client is “well on the road to rehabilitation.” Ahmad pleaded guilty in May to participating in a terrorist group, importing firearms and instructing co-accused to carry out an activity for a terrorist group.
News Agencies – August 26, 2010
Canadian Muslim leaders were variously stunned, outraged and wary at news from Ottawa that the RCMP had broken up an alleged terrorism cell with suspected links to al-Qaeda. Few details were released about the people rounded up in the bust, but they are suspected of planning a terrorist attack in Canada and authorities anticipate more arrests.
“It’s sad to hear such news. It’s disturbing,” said Imam Habeeb Alli, secretary of the Canadian Council of Imams. The Muslim Canadian Congress expressed “shock” at the developments and commended RCMP for the operation.
The Ottawa case is considered the most significant counterterrorism operation in Canada since the 2006 Toronto 18 arrests. The ringleader in the Ottawa case allegedly attended training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Similarly, in the Toronto 18 case, ringleader Fahim Ahmad was linked with a network of extremists stretching from Canada and the United States to Pakistan and the Balkans.
The final chapter in the story of the Toronto 18 terror cell closed last week with convictions, but experts warn there is no end to the threat of homegrown religious extremism among Muslim youth. Community members and security experts agree that youth are being radicalized in their own homes by tapping into an online jihadi cyberworld and also behind closed doors of private prayer rooms where firebrand religious ideologues go unchallenged. And increasingly, they are travelling overseas to countries such as Somalia and Pakistan to take up arms and fight jihad.
The arrests four years ago of what became known as the Toronto 18 woke up a country that had appeared immune to the kind of attacks that had terrorized cities such as New York and London. Evidence emerged of plots to storm Parliament Hill, behead the prime minister and blow up truck bombs in downtown Toronto.
The final two accused, Asad Ansari, 25, of Mississauga, and Steven Chand, 29, of Scarborough, were found guilty by a Brampton jury of participating in a terrorist group. It was the first time a Canadian jury has ruled on a terrorism case since the introduction of anti-terrorism legislation in 2001, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Another member of the so-called “Toronto 18” conspiracy has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges – and is about to be let go. Jahmaal James, 26, entered a surprise guilty plea in a Brampton court. Because he spent three years and nine months awaiting trial – and got a two-for-on-credit for the “dead time” – he has effectively served all the seven-year, seven-month sentence he was meted. He was sentenced to one more day.
James was arrested in 2006, as police rounded up 18 young Muslims in the Toronto area. Most of those arrested have now been found guilty of involvement in terrorism, for either attending a amateurish Toronto training camp, or for plotting to blow up military and government targets around Toronto. The scheme aimed to force a withdrawal of Canadian Forces soldiers from Afghanistan.
James faced unique charges. It was alleged that, in 2005 and at the behest of other members of the Toronto conspiracy, he travelled to Pakistan in hopes of taking terrorist training with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group (the same group suspected of perpetrating the Mumbai Massacre in 2008). But in the end, James did not actually get to take any training in Pakistan, as he was unable to link up with any terrorist trainers. James plead guilty to participating in a terrorist group for his involvement with the other Toronto suspects.