Pity poor Saad Khalid. That is what the leftist Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, wants people to feel for the convicted Canadian Muslim terrorist because he lost his mother at age 16. Coming home and finding her dead in the bathtub, Khalid sank to his knees and then went on to do did what all teenagers do in such cases: he turned into a murderous terrorist.
And for that, Khalid, 23, was sentenced in a Canadian court last week to 14 years in prison for plotting to blow up major buildings in downtown Toronto. But unlike the Star, whose front page story expressed compassion for the cold-blooded conspirator, many Canadians experienced only disappointment, if not outright anger, at the sentence’s short length. (Khalid will be eligible for parole in 28 months, having received seven years credit for his three years in pre-trial custody).
Born in Saudi Arabia of Pakistani parents, Khalid was one of the “Toronto 18” terrorist group whose members were arrested in June, 2006, for plotting to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto office of Canada’s intelligence service and a military base between Toronto and Ottawa. At the time of the arrests, it was also alleged the group planned to bomb a federal government building in Toronto, detonate fishing tackle boxes full of explosives in packed food courts and storm Canada’s parliament in Ottawa and behead the prime minister.
The bombs were to be placed in rented trucks and detonated with cell-phone triggers. If successful, it is estimated casualties would have run into the hundreds, if not thousands, making it Canada’s 9/11. Missing from the Star story was a comment by one of the terrorists who told an undercover agent, “There will be blood, glass and debris everywhere.”
Confirmation of that barbarous statement appeared in The National Post, a Canadian national newspaper. The paper reported that when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police exploded a test bomb like the ones the Toronto terrorists intended to build, it blew a 5,000 pound shipping container 25 yards away, flipping it 360 degrees.
When Khalid, a University of Toronto student, was arrested, he was unloading from a truck three tonnes of boxes marked “ammonium nitrate”, marked for use in the bombs’ construction. Khalid gave Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan as the reason for his involvement in the plot.
“He was not just a gopher,” said Justice Bruce Durno at Khalid’s sentencing hearing. “He was not someone who sat waiting for his next assignment without providing input.” And while Durno said Khalid was not the plot’s prime mover and did not know all the details, he “knew serious bodily harm or death were likely.”
But these statements by Durno, including his calling terrorism offences “the most vile form of criminal conduct”, were conspicuously absent from the Toronto Star account. Instead, readers saw only Justice Durno’s comments concerning Khalid’s “vulnerability” after his mother’s death, and his “need to emulate powerful and influential leaders” and “youthful naivete” playing a possible role in his becoming a terrorist.
Also conspicuously absent in this jaundiced version were the facts that Khalid had purchased electrical equipment and rented storage units for the terrorist group. He had also recruited another person into the plot. And nowhere was discussed the matter of the terrorist training camp Khalid and his co-conspirators had set up north of Toronto where men in camouflage uniforms were filmed firing weapons while yelling “God is Great.”
Khalid attended the camp in 2005. His presence there would have coincided with his reading such popular tracts as The Book of Jihad and The Virtues of Jihad, which police found on Khalid’s computer after his arrest. But why let such humanitarian realities get in the way of a good sob story.
Only investigative reporter Stewart Bell in the National Post pointed out in an excellent article the plot’s important, international connection with both Great Britain and the United States. A senior conspirator was British al-Qaeda supporter, Aabid Hussein Khan, who recruited young Muslims to send to terrorist training camps in Pakistan. He had met with the terrorist group in Toronto and has since been arrested.
In 2005, the American jihadist from Georgia, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, convicted last month in Atlanta of aiding Islamic terror groups, had also travelled to Toronto to meet a Toronto 18 member. They discussed possible targets for attack in the United States. Sadequee will be sentenced October 15 and is facing 60 years.
The Star reporter’s interviews with Khalid’s family members, former schoolmates and a reference to a psychiatric report gives the account more an air of a therapy session than a hard-hitting news report about terrorism. Unintentionally, however, the story also gives Canadians further reason for concern about their security.
The Star story states that when in high school, Khalid would preach sermons to other young Muslims that would turn “into vitriolic diatribes about how the West was the enemy”, sermons that “made him popular.” According to one student, Khalid would ask listeners about what they were going to do for their “Muslim brothers overseas”, including discussions on martyrdom.
Questions need to be asked whether this was the only Canadian high school serving, unknown to authorities, as a pseudo madrassa and turning out other Khalids. Penetrating questions also needed to be asked about Khalid himself, such as whether he has renounced jihad.
Apparently not. In a statement two weeks ago, Khalid, who arrived in Canada at age 9, wrote he was not motivated by “a hate of Canada, Canadians, democracy or Canadian values…” when plotting to murder hundreds of his fellow citizens. But before Canadians can breathe a sigh of relief, the Star cites an interview Khalid had with a psychiatrist, in which he says he has not changed his religious or political convictions. Renouncing violence as a method, Khalid says he now intends to “do more grassroots work” to effect change. What kind of change is left unclear.
Nevertheless, Khalid will have $63,000 awaiting him upon his release, money raised to pay for his education. So while in jail Khalid will have at least learned one lesson, namely, crime does pay.