THAT’S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GET ON THE INTERNET AND START BLATHERING ON ABOUT YOUR JIHAD…
Eighth suspect sought in alleged homegrown terror plot
Terror accused Khurram Sher (centre), age 28, is driven out of Ottawa’s Elgin St. courthouse.
Photograph by: Mike Carroccetto, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — There are now eight suspects in a massive police probe into an alleged terror plot to bomb the Parliament buildings, the Ottawa Citizen has learned.
An early Friday arrest had raised the number of people in an alleged Ottawa terror cell to seven.
But the Citizen has learned the team carrying out the investigation, known as Project Samossa, has now identified an eighth conspirator in the homegrown terrorist bomb plot against the country’s seat of government and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, on Friday, several police vehicles and a heavily armed tactical team converged on a vehicle in Ottawa, handcuffing the driver, who appeared to be in his late 20s, and searching the car.
RCMP said Friday the man has not been charged and his identity was being withheld.
Three other Canadian men were arrested in Ottawa and London, Ont., Wednesday and Thursday after a year-long investigation, dubbed Project Samossa. Three others, believed to be non-citizens and out of the country, are named as unindicted co-conspirators in what police believe was a terror ring linked to the global Islamist terrorism movement.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior CSIS counter-terrorism agent and one-time RCMP security service officer, said a source close to the investigation has told him at least one suspect, the alleged ringleader, used Ottawa Public Library computers to communicate with other members of the Ottawa-based cell.
“He was trying to avoid detection and surveillance,” Juneau-Katsuya said. “They wanted to hit Parliament Hill and there was discussion of going against public transportation in Montreal . . . (and) they were not excluding the possibility to some major (Ottawa transit) hubs.”
Isabelle Tremblay, a spokeswoman for the Montreal transit agency, denied it was a target. “We checked with police and the authorities and … it’s not true,” she said.
Juneau-Katsuya said he was told Internet messages between the men tripped computer “sniffers” at Ottawa’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the government’s electronic spy agency.
“One of the (CSE) filters picked up their chat,” said Juneau-Katsuya. “The way the system is established, we’ve got red flags everywhere and you can trip one of those flags anytime. If you’re travelling to Pakistan, that’s a red flag. If you’re going on certain websites, that’s another red flag and if you use certain key words in e-mail. When you’ve got enough red flags, then you become a person of interest. My understanding is they were caught from the Internet.”
CSE alerted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, he said. At some point, CSIS alerted the RCMP, which launched the major national security investigation.
Juneau-Katsuya said he was told a critical element in the probe involved secretly monitoring the suspects’ e-mail and other communications via the public library computers. Police, he said, obtained the IP addresses from the City of Ottawa.
On Thursday, RCMP Chief Supt. Serge Therriault, head of criminal operations for the capital region, told an Ottawa news conference that Project Samossa was forced to move on the suspects this week when police learned financial support was about to be transferred from Canada for weapons to attack western coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Another Ottawa intelligence expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said faced with that possibility, police had little choice but to make arrests.
“These arrests would be required as it is entirely probable that the money would have been used for the purchase of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or other weapons which would have been targeted against Canadian soldiers or allies in the NATO-led force,” the unnamed expert said.
“The commanders of such investigations are under multiple pressures, some of which are outside of their control. Investigators working at the front line of the investigation will want to open up more lines of investigation, putting pressure on scarce resources. Intelligence partners will want to continue the investigation to gather more intelligence, often without reference to the risks. Prosecutors want more direct evidence collected.
“But beyond those pressures, the investigation commander has to deal with the brutal facts that the failure to arrest may result in further deaths and injuries. It is a cruel pressure.”
The alleged plot was in its early stages and “months” away from being viable, Therriault said. “There remained, throughout, a varied degree of imminence to the threat, whether they were going to conduct an attack or not and how it was going to be done.”
Two of the accused — Hiva Alizadeh, 30, a former electrical engineering technology student, and Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, an X-ray technician, both of Ottawa, were arrested Wednesday. The third, Khurram Syed Sher, 28, a doctor who once auditioned for Canadian Idol, was arrested in London, Ont., Thursday.
They face a variety of terrorism charges, including conspiring with at least three others — James Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh and Zakaria Mamosta — and other “persons unknown,” who have been at one time or another located in Canada, Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan, to facilitate “terrorist activity” between February 2008 and Aug. 24.
Sher, who recently moved to London from Montreal, is charged with a single count of conspiracy to facilitate a terrorist offence.
Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh — police won’t say whether he is related to Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh — and Mamosta, all non-Canadians, are not in Canada and have not been charged. Therriault suggested international efforts may be made to arrest them.
Hiva Alizadeh faces a separate charge of making or having an explosive substance — which can include IED components — in his possession with the intent to endanger life or cause serious damage. He is also accused of being a member of a group with links to the conflict in Afghanistan and allegedly received overseas training in building and detonating IEDs, said Therriault.
Raids on Alizadeh’s and Ahmed’s Ottawa homes Wednesday uncovered more than 50 circuit boards police believe were intended to remotely trigger detonators for IEDs.
Also seized was a “vast quantity” of schematics, videos, drawings, instructions and electronic components for IEDs.
Improvised bombs have been used for decades by terrorists and insurgents, but the war in Iraq accelerated their technological development, making roadside bombs a chief weapon against coalition troops in Afghanistan.
With files from Meghan Hurley