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Al Qaeda Operating in Canada By: Jerry Seper
Washington Times | Thursday, December 26, 2002


Al Qaeda has established cells in Canada whose members have the "capability and conviction" to support terrorist activities all across North America, according to Canadian intelligence officials.

Canadian Security and Intelligence Service documents filed in an Ottawa federal court to aid the deportation of an Algerian national suspected of being an al Qaeda operative described the "sleeper cells" as secretive, operational and loyal to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire named as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

The CSIS papers, made public this week, accused Mohammed Harkat of having ties to key al Qaeda leaders, including Abu Zubaydah, the terrorist network's overall operational planner and a top member of bin Laden's inner circle. Zubaydah was arrested earlier this year in Pakistan by FBI agents and Pakistani police.

The court records also linked Harkat to Ahmed Khadr, suspected of being a terrorist operative and placed on the U.S. government's most-wanted list after the attacks. Khadr, believed to be the highest-ranking Canadian in al Qaeda's network, was identified in the CSIS documents as a "close associate" of bin Laden who helped finance terrorist activities through charitable organizations.

Khadr's teenage son, Omar al-Khadr, is being held at the U.S. military headquarters in Bagram, Afghanistan, in the killing of U.S. Special Forces Sgt. Christopher J. Speer.

Sgt. Speer, 28, a medic, suffered a head wound during a search of the Ab Khail village in Afghanistan on July 27. He was evacuated to Germany, where he died Aug. 6. Six days before he was wounded, he walked into a minefield and rescued two wounded Afghan children.

"The service believes there are supporters of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network in Canada," the CSIS said. "Several individuals under service investigation are the products of violent Jihad. Based on this profile, the service believes that some extremists in Canada have the capability and conviction to provide support for terrorist activities in North America."

Zubaydah, now held by U.S. authorities, also has been linked with Ahmed Ressam, another Algerian national and Canadian resident convicted of attempting a terrorist attack on Los Angeles International Airport to coincide with the December 1999 millennium celebrations.

Ressam was arrested by U.S. Customs Service agents as he tried to enter Washington state from Canada in a car loaded with explosives, chemicals and timing devices. He entered Canada using a phony French passport in 1994, a year before Harkat, after training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 1990s.

Harkat, 34, arrived in Canada from Malaysia in 1995 using what Canadian officials said was a phony Saudi passport. He was detained last week by Ottawa police and, although not formally charged with a crime, was declared a threat to national security. His forced deportation under Canadian immigration laws could come this week.

The CSIS documents show that Harkat has been the focus of an ongoing investigation of terror suspects in Canada for five years and has been interviewed by authorities at least four times.

"His support for individuals and groups involved in political violence or terrorist activity, his alliances with Islamic extremists and his use of security techniques lead the CSIS to believe that Harkat is associated with organizations that support the use of political violence and terrorism," the CSIS said.

Canadian intelligence officials also have linked Harkat to the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization, two Saudi-based charitable groups suspected of assisting terrorists. Both were named in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed in the United States by family members of those killed in the attacks on the United States last year.

Last week, Ottawa also announced a ban on Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamic group that Canadian intelligence believes used Canada as a fund-raising base.

In September, a report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the two charities were among several believed to have helped fund the hijackers responsible for the attacks.

The report, by the RCMP's financial intelligence branch, said the main sources of al Qaeda's funding were charities, nongovernmental organizations and commercial entities and that the money was funneled to the network through the Hawala, an international underground banking system.

Harkat, who worked in Ottawa as a gas station attendant and pizza deliverer, was granted refugee status in Canada in 1997 after he said he faced political persecution in Algeria. He was reported to have been involved with the Armed Islamic Group, which sought to overthrow the Algerian government.

"The service believes Mohammed Harkat is an Islamic extremist," the CSIS said. "He was and is a member of the bin Laden network, and Harkat's role in this terrorist network is exemplified by his actions and intentions."

The CSIS said Harkat "lied" to immigration officials that he had no friends or associates in Canada and "attempted to mask his relationships with individuals in Canada, in part, to dissociate himself from individuals or groups who support terrorism."

U.S. intelligence authorities have focused on Harkat's suspected ties to Zubaydah.

One of al Qaeda's most sophisticated operators, traveling the world on forged passports to organize terrorist cells, Zubaydah is believed to be the successor to Muhammad Atef, al Qaeda's operations chief killed by a U.S. air strike in November 2001.

In raiding Zubaydah's safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, authorities confiscated a host of documents, cell-phone numbers and computer files. FBI officials said that he has key information on the September 11 attacks, as well as previous bombings of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 sailors and two U.S. embassies in East Africa.




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