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Friday, June 09, 2006

U.K. suspect linked to terror group in Pakistan

Organization gets funding from al-Qaeda: Ottawa

TORONTO - A man being questioned in the United Kingdom about his alleged role in a Canadian extremist group accused of plotting bombings in Toronto has ties to an outlawed Pakistani militant group, sources have told the National Post.

Abid Khan, 21, who was recently in Canada and is being detained north of London under Britain's Terrorism Act, is believed to be involved with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), a radical Islamist organization linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the sources said.

Mr. Khan is suspected of being a "go-to guy" who would arrange for volunteers around the world to attend the LeT's training camps.

Some describe him as the "Abu Zubaydah" of the LeT, a reference to the man accused of feeding recruits to Osama bin Laden's training camp network in Afghanistan.

Investigators suspect Mr. Khan may have tried to help some of those associated with the Toronto network receive training in Pakistan, but he was not among those charged by Canadian authorities on the weekend and he has not been charged by Britain.

Mr. Khan was arrested at 9 p.m. on Tuesday after he flew into Manchester airport from Pakistan. A 16-year-old described by British media as the grandson of a leading Islamic scholar was arrested later.

Mr. Khan's friends and family have said they could not imagine him being involved in terrorist activities.

Yesterday, West Yorkshire Police said in a statement they were searching an Internet cafe. Police have also searched Mr. Khan's home in Bradford, his grandmother's home and several locations in Dewsbury.

"This is a continuing and detailed investigation, and while we are working hard to bring it to a conclusion as quickly as possible, there is a need to ensure inquiries are completed thoroughly," police said.

The LeT, or "Army of the Pure," was placed on Canada's official list of outlawed terrorist organizations in June, 2003. It operates in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, known as Kashmir and Jammu. Both Pakistanis and Indians claim Kashmir as their own and the two have fought to control it for a half-century.

Armed Muslim groups such as the LeT regularly attack Indian security forces in Kashmir using bombs and firearms. They have also massacred civilians as part of what they consider a jihad. Since the end of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Islamic militants have trekked to Kashmir to join the fight.

The LeT is the armed wing of the Markaz Da'wa wal-Irshad, a fundamentalist centre for religious learning and social welfare. It has targeted both civilians and Indian security forces, sometimes in suicide attacks.

"In addition to links to al-Qaeda, the LeT also has links with the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups throughout the Middle East, Chechnya and the Philippines," says a profile of the group by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. "Al-Qaeda's close links to the LeT can be traced to their common training in Afghan camps and in the 1980s jihad against the Soviets. Osama bin Laden is reportedly one of the LeT's leading financiers."

Mr. Khan's alleged involvement with the LeT is the latest suggestion of a Pakistan connection to what the RCMP is describing as a plot by "al-Qaeda-inspired" homegrown Canadian terrorists to carry out attacks in southern Ontario.

Training in Pakistan was discussed when two Georgia men, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 19, and Syed Haris Ahmed, 21, visited Toronto in March, 2005, the FBI says. Mr. Ahmed later allegedly went to Pakistan in an attempt to receive training.

Among those the two Americans met in Toronto were Fahim Ahmad and Jahmaal James. According to his family, Mr. James was recently in Pakistan, but those who know the Scarborough man insist the trip had nothing to do with terrorist training. They say he went there to get married.

Twelve men and five juveniles face charges under the anti-terrorism act. Most were to make court appearances in Brampton on Monday for bail hearings, including two men who are already serving time for smuggling guns into Canada from the United States.

The eight-page charging document submitted to the court calls Mr. Ahmad, 21, and Zakaria Amara, 20, the ringleaders of the conspiracy, which they called Operation Badr, reports CBS News. The document alleges that an initial plan was to storm the Parliament buildings, take MPs hostage and then behead them live on television if their demands -- a Canadian withdrawal from Afghanistan and the release of prisoners -- were not met.

Last August, two alleged associates of the group, Ali Dirie and Yasin Mohamed, were caught at the Peace Bridge border crossing with three semi-automatic handguns hidden inside their pants.

The court document says the two ringleaders split in March and Mr. Amara pursued a plot to carry out truck bombings at the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service regional office in Toronto. A military facility was also allegedly discussed as a target. Mr. Amara, an electrical engineering student, allegedly built detonation devices and ordered ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer used in explosives, says the court document, according to CBS.

However, reports that one of the accused, Amin Durrani, 19, enrolled in flight training at Centennial College are not true, the CBC said yesterday. He was enrolled in the school's aicraft maintenance program and "there is no means of flight," Mark Toljagic, a spokesman for Centennial College, told CBC News.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Canadians not to overreact to the arrests. "We need not to over-

react in the sense that, you know, these are serious charges, they are obviously charges and they have yet to be heard in court, but you know, even with the number of people involved this is still an insignificant percentage of the Canadian population," Mr. Harper told radio stations CFRB Toronto and CJAD Montreal.

Also facing charges are: Asad Ansari, Shareef Abdelhaleen, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, Steven Vikash Chand, Ahmad Mustafa Ghany and Saad Khalid. The juveniles cannot be named.

Stewart Bell; with files from Joseph Brean, National Post; with files from CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, June 09, 2006
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