The al-Qaeda linked module comprising three home-grown terrorists, including an Indian-born man, was only “months” away from carrying out a series of attacks in Canada, police said on Friday as they traced the busted plot to Pakistan, Iran and Dubai.
Three suspected terrorists have been arrested over the past two days, two in Ottawa and one in Ontario.
The three, Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh (30), Misbahuddin Ahmed (26), who was reportedly born in India and Khurram Syed Sher (28), a Pakistani have been charged in connection with a plot to make and detonate improvised explosive devices as well as financing terror groups operating in Afghanistan. All are being held in custody.
The members of the busted module were “months” away from exploding bombs on Canadian soil, a senior RCMP official was quoted as saying by Toronto Star.
The arrests follow a year-long investigation and have stopped an imminent threat to targets not only in Ottawa but possibly across the country, said Chief Superintendent Serge Therriault, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) chief of criminal operations in Ottawa.
Police refused to identify the targets of the alleged terrorists, saying that information would come out in court.
Police allege that since February 2008, the three men conspired with three others - James Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh and Zakaria Mamosta - in a terrorist plot they have traced back to Iran, Pakistan and Dubai, the ‘Toronto Star’ reported.
Therriault said police seized more than 50 electronic circuit boards that could be used to produce improvised explosive devices, or IEDs - the same lethal bombs involved in the majority of deaths and injuries of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
“This group posed a real and serious threat to the citizens of the national capital region and Canada’s national security,” Therriault said.
Alizadeh alone faces charges of making or possessing explosive devices for terrorist purposes and terrorist financing. Police allege he is an active member of an unnamed terrorist group, with which he remains in close contact.
“Part of the decision to make the arrests at this time was to prevent the suspect from providing financial support to terrorist counterparts for the purchase of weapons which would in turn be used against coalition forces and our troops (in Afghanistan),” Therriault said.
Two of the men appeared in a small courtroom yesterday in Ottawa. Alizadeh and Ahmed were put over for a video appearance on September 1.
Robert Farrell, a former Canadian diplomat who had rented his house to Ahmed, was quoted as saying that Ahmed was born in India, but had lived for a time in Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed, who works as an X—ray technician at the Ottawa Hospital, rented the home about a year ago, after responding to an ad Farrell had placed on an online rental site.
“Because the plot was located here it was always a concern that targets were potentially located in this area,” Therriault said. It is not clear even whether specific Ottawa targets had been selected.
He said more details will come out in court. With all of its political, diplomatic and other important national symbols, many undefended, Ottawa is a target—rich environment.
The Internet, meanwhile, allows easy “electronic scouting” — pictures, maps, histories and satellite images — of many sites.
Coalition sources in Kandahar say they were aware that IED components, rocket propelled grenades, ammunition and landmines coming from Iran have been found their way to insurgents in Afghanistan.
“He is in shock, that’s all I can say,” Ahmed’s Ottawa lawyer Ian Carter told reporters after his court appearance.
Sean May, lawyer for Alizadeh, said the charges against his client were very serious and that his client was “very concerned.”
“They are very serious charges, no question about that. They are the most serious charges you can face except for a murder charge,” he said.
The CBC reported that Alizadeh lived in Manitoba for some time and attended Red River College in Winnipeg before coming to Ontario.
A medical graduate of McGill University, Sher is studying pathology at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in London. Ahmed had worked for two years as a radiography technologist at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, yesterday that terror networks threatening western nations have a global reach.
“They exist not only in remote countries but through globalization and the Internet, they have links in our country and all through the world,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would not address any of the specific details investigators made public yesterday, but he spoke about the threat to the country from people who become “radicalised” and decide to fight their religious conflict on Canadian soil.
“Canada is not immune and that’s why Canada must remain vigilant,” Toews said in Winnipeg.