Asian Criminal and Terrorist Activity in Canada/terror
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Canada’s geographic proximity to the United States, together with the comparative ease of entering into the country, makes it a prime locale for terrorist organizations. According to a Canadian Security Intelligence Service report in 2000, about 50 terrorist groups, with more than 350 members, were using Canada as a base from which to conduct their activities. Although many of these groups may have been using individuals only to conduct fund raising activities, it was feared that active cells might exist. The report noted that the scope of several of these organizations had changed from being involved in “support roles, such as fund-raising and [weapons] procurement, to actually planning and preparing terrorist acts” from Canada.
The groups cited in the report included Hezbollah and other Shiite Islamic terrorist organizations; several Sunni Islamic extremist groups with ties to Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Lebanon, and Iran; the PKK; the Provisional IRA; the Tamil Tigers; and all of the major Sikh terrorist groups.
In its 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, the Canadian government officially bans 16 terrorist organizations from conducting any type of activities within the country and allows the government to designate specific individuals and groups as terrorist organizations. The Act also provides for rigid criminal penalties against these individuals or groups and the seizure of assets. This move has dealt a serious legal blow to groups that have relied on Canada as a financial resource. The list, however, still contains fewer than half of the groups listed on a similar list organized by the U.S. State Department. Included on the Canadian list are Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, al-Ittihad al-Islam, al-Qaeda, Algerian Armed Islamic Group, Asbat Al-Ansar, Aum Shinrikyo, Egyptian al-Jihad, Hamas, Harakat ul-Mujahedin, Hezbollah, Islamic Army of Aden, Jaish-e Mohammed, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Salifist Group for Call and Combat, and Vanguards of Conquest.
Research indicates that al-Qaeda operatives, more than any other group, have sought refuge in Canadian territory for the purpose of directing attacks against U.S. interests around the globe, thus continuing the strategy the group has implemented of developing networks both for financial and logistical reasons.
To date there is no indication that al-Qaeda has modified its goals in regard to targeting the United States, and CSIS has also stated its belief that there are sleeper cells operating in Canada that are capable of providing support for terrorist activities in North America.
Several incidents since 1999 indicate an al-Qaeda presence in Canada. One such incident concerned Abdel Ghani. Ghani was arrested by police in Brooklyn in 1999. Ghani’s telephone number had been found in the pocket of Ahmed Ressam. When he was arrested while attempting to sneak into the United States from Canada, Ressam was an Algerian national and member of the Algerian Armed Islamic group. Information obtained from Ghani led police to Abdel Hakim Tizegha, an al-Qaeda member living in Canada. He was arrested on December 24, 1999, after having sneaked across the U.S. border near Blaine, Washington.
Another case involved Nabil al-Marabh. In June 2001, al-Marabh, suspected by U.S. authorities of providing support to the September 11 hijackers, was caught as he tried to cross into the United States from Canada, using a fake Canadian passport. Despite having been denied refugee status and deported in 1994, al-Marabh had been able to re-enter Canada without difficulty in 2001. Al-Marabh had shared a residence and worked at the same company as Raed Hijazi, an alleged al-Qaeda operative. Al-Marabh allegedly transferred funds to bank accounts and made fake IDs for some of the September 11 hijackers.
After his capture in 2001, al-Marbh was ultimately released on bail, despite having been deported from Canada in 1994, and having known ties to al-Qaeda. The decision to release him was defended by Canada’s Minister of Immigration after September 11 because the minister believed that to detain him without substantial evidence would be to violate Canada’s policies. U.S. authorities took al-Marabh into custody on September 19, 2001, in a Chicago suburb, because of his alleged connection with the September 11 attacks.
International attacks that have possible al-Qaeda connections also have roots in Canada. The April 11, 2002 bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia may be linked to al-Qaeda operatives who planned the attack while living in Canada and Germany, according to an article in the Boston Globe. Niser bin Muhammad Nasar Nawar, an Islamic radical connected to al-Qaeda, is suspected of planning the attack while living in Montreal. According to a French official, Nawar entered Montreal in 1999, possibly with the assistance of the Tunisian Fighting Group, an organization with ties to al-Qaeda and with followers in Canada, France, and Germany.
Although Canadian immigration officials have no record of Nawar entering the country and living in Montreal, these officials admit that they were unable to monitor scores of Tunisians who entered the country in 1999 and 2000 using fraudulent student visas.
In yet another case, Bob Runciman, Ontario’s Minister of Public Safety and Security, asserted that an al-Qaeda sleeper cell fled Ontario in May 2002, after coming under police investigation. Although officials determined that many of the subjects were not involved in any criminal activity, an undetermined number were not cleared of involvement in terrorist activity and were sought for questioning.
In June 2002, an Algerian man named Amine Mezbar, who maintained his residence in Montreal, was sent to the Netherlands where Dutch prosecutors have alleged he was forging documents and assisting an al-Qaeda group in Europe in plans to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Dutch authorities sought Mezbar so that he could be charged, along with the six other men awaiting trial who are alleged to make up the European cell. Mezbar had at least three aliases and was living in Montreal at the time of his arrest.
A December 2002 article in The Ottawa Citizen reported that the CSIS had accused Ahmed Khadr, a Canadian citizen, of having strong links with Mohammad Harkat, who in turn was connected with Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda’s chief operational planner. Khadr also is suspected to have ties to Mahmoud Jaballah, a suspected member of al-Jihad. Khadr was last sighted in Afghanistan in November 2001.
In 1995, Mohammad Harkat, who later was discovered to have links with al-Qaeda’s chief operational planner, Abu Zubaydah, arrived in Canada using a forged Saudi passport and claiming he had been persecuted in Algeria. Despite being under investigation for terrorist activities since 1997, he gained refugee status, and his deportation hearing did not commence until January 2003. Harkat was purported to have connections with several violent Islamic extremist groups, including the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria as well as two Saudi charitable groups, the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization. He is suspected of assisting terrorists, including the September 11 hijackers.
According to CSIS documents, Harakat was believed to be a “sleeper,” waiting for instructions and was in contact with suspected al-Qaeda operatives as recently as December 2002.
A January 2002 article in the The Vancouver Sun claims that evidence uncovered from the Afghanistan residence of a man thought to be Osama bin Laden’s military chief identifies two Canadian citizens as having links to al-Qaeda. One of the men was identified as Al Rauf bin Al Habib Bin Yousef Al-Jiddi; he may be in the company of another man named Faker Boussora.
Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
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- Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Report 2000/04. International Terrorism: The Threat to Canada, May 3, 2000. <http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/miscdocs/200004_e.html>
- Colin Nickerson, “Canada Gets Reputation as a Haven for Fugitives,” Boston Globe, December 21, 2000, A1. <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?Did=0000…Fmt=3&Deli=1&Mtd=1&Idx=2&Sid=15&RQT=309>
- Stewart Bell, “Liberals Relent, Hezbollah Outlawed: Graham Says It’s Due to Recent Evidence,” National Post [Toronto], December 12, 2002, A1
- Peter L. Bergen, “Holy War, Inc.” (New York: Touchstone, 2002), 200.
- Dana Priest, “Canadian ‘Sleepers’ in Contact With U.S. Cells,” Toronto Star, December 26, 2002.
- Kenneth R. Timmerman, “Canadian Border Open to Terrorists,” Insight on the News [Washington], December 17, 2001. (Library of Congress InfoTrac OneFile)
- Bob Runciman, “Suspected Terrorist Cell Flees Ontario,” Buffalo News, May 26, 2002, A9.
- CBC News, “Algerian Man Won’t Fight Extradition to Netherlands,” June 28 2002; and “Terrorist Suspect Consents to Extradition from Canada,” June 27, 2002. < http://www.cbc.ca/>
- Andrew Duffy, “The Case Against Harkat: CSIS Is Sure the Ottawa Man Is an al-Qaeda Sleeper,” December 21, 2002, B1. (Lexis Nexis Document)
- Dana Priest, “Canadians Hunt al-Qaeda Loyalists,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 26, 2002.
- “Turks Nab 3 Suspected of Plotting Attack in Israel,” The Vancouver Sun, February 20, 2002. A12.