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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Al Qaeda Figures Lurk In Shadows Around Toronto Terror Cell

By J.M. Berger

For more than a year, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has been investigating Canadian terror cells, including members of a massive plot broken up this week near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

A Toronto terrorist cell with at least 17 members stockpiled three tons of ammonium nitrate, the same explosive used in the Oklahoma City bombing, Canadian police said Saturday. (Arrests and investigation, The Globe and Mail; al Qaeda explosives formulas and the Oklahoma City bombing, INTELWIRE)

According to a recently unsealed affidavit, the JTTF was investigating the Toronto terror cell no later than March 2005, and possibly earlier. Special Agent Michael Scherck said the FBI was tracking "targets of an ongoing JTTF investigation" in Toronto no later than March 2005, including at least "three subjects in of an FBI international terrorism investigation" tied to conspirators in the United States.

Although Canadian authorities say the terrorist plot is not connected to the "institutional" al Qaeda.

But Mississauga, the Toronto suburb where about half the conspirators lived, was home to an early Egyptian Islamic Jihad sleeper agent in North America, a figure who later became a top-ranked member of al Qaeda. The city was also home to an al Qaeda-linked charity storefront.


The link between the U.S. and Canadian cells was confirmed to Bloomberg News in an e-mail from FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko, who characterized the contact between the two operations as "limited."

But the March affidavit by Scherck appears to outline a more substantial connection. Ahmed told investigators that he and Sadequee had traveled to Toronto to meet with "like-minded Islamic extremists." During the trip, the two men allegedly discussed "strategic locations in the United States suitable for a terrorist strike, to include oil refineries and military bases."

The affidavit was filed to support the prosecution of Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, two Georgia residents arrested in March 2006. During a bail hearing, prosectutors said that Sadequee had "known terrorist ties," but refused to elaborate, prompting a show of skepticism about the entire case from the presiding judge.


INTELWIRE publishes exclusive FOIA and purchased documents as a resource for journalists and researchers. Please cite if reporting directly from these pages.

Full text of FBI affidavit describing Toronto cell links

Full transcript of Sadequee bail hearing

Regardless, the FBI said it was closely monitoring the Toronto group. According to the affidavit, Sadequee and Ahmed "met regularly with at least three subjects of an FBI international terrorism investigation." While in Toronto, the two also "met with several other targets of an ongoing JTTF investigation."

According to Scherck, "the assembled group developed a plan for traveling to Pakistan where they would attempt to receive military training at one of the several terrorist-sponsored camps camps." At minimum, Ahmed did receive such training, the affidavit alleges.

During the Toronto trip, Ahmed and Sadequee allegedly stayed with "an individual with whom they were conspiring concerning the travel to terrorist camps and the plots against civilian and military installations in the United States."


Al Qaeda has long maintained a presence in the large Toronto suburb of Mississauga, the home town for at least six of the 17 arrested suspects. According to The Globe and Mail, the list includes:
  • Zakaria Amara, 20, of Periwinkle Crescent, Mississauga, Ontario;

  • Asad Ansari, 21, of Rosehurst Drive, Mississauga, Ontario;

  • Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30, of Lowville Heights, Mississauga, Ontario;

  • Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, of Montevideo Road, Mississauga, Ontario;

  • Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, of Robin Drive, Mississauga, Ontario;

  • Saad Khalid, 19, of Eclipse Avenue, Mississauga, Ontario.

Mississauga was home to the Canadian branch of the Benevolence International Foundation, an Islamic charity dismantled by the U.S. after September 11 on grounds that its funds were being misdirected to al Qaeda.

An international organization with broad links to al Qaeda operations in Bosnia, the Philippines and Chechnya, among others, BIF was also known in Arabic as Al Birr Al Dawalia or Lanjat al Birr.

Prior to 2001, Benevolence ran operations in several locations where al Qaeda command-and-control networks dominated the local landscape, including in Peshawar and Islamabad, Pakistan; Khartoum, Sudan; Afghanistan; Sarajevo and Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Foundation also maintained offices in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Chechnya, China, Croatia, the Gaza Strip, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, the Netherlands, Russia, Tajikistan, Yemen, the United Kingdom; and locations in Illinois, Florida and New Jersey in the United States.

In Canada, BIF also maintained a significant presence, with offices at 2465 Cawthra Rd., #203, Mississauga, Ontario, as well as locations at 3 King Street, South Waterloo, Ontario, and in Ottowa.

Next door to Benevolence, at 2445 Cawthra Road, were the offices of Human Concern International, described as "the first Islamic charity in North America to provide funds to the" mujahideen in Afghanistan, starting in 1979 (Burr and Collins, Alms for Jihad).

Ahmed Khadr, an HCI employee who immigrated to Canada from Egypt in the 1970s, was also an EIJ operative and an "colleague of Osama bin Laden," according to an FBI affidavit. Khadr split his time between Canada and Pakistan. His sons received Canadian citizenship and also became involved in jihadist causes.

Khadr worked for HCI during the 1980s and 1990s, mostly out of Pakistan, according to the FBI. HCI says it severed the relationship in 1995 after Khadr was accused of involvement in a terrorist attack in Pakistan, according to The National Post, a Canadian newspaper. HCI, which has never been formally charged with supporting terrorism, continues to maintain its offices at Cawthra Road and denies that any of its funds were ever used for terrorism.

Ahmed's son, Abdullah Khadr, was arrested in December 2005 by Canadian police to face charges for allegedly purchasing munitions and explosives on behalf of al Qaeda in 2003. Another son, Abdurrahman Khadr, eventually became a CIA informant in Guantanamo Bay and Bosnia, according to PBS Frontline (interview).

Ahmed Khadr became a top al Qaeda leader, according to the affidavit, and helped mediate in the event of conflicts among bin Laden, the Taliban and mujahideen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Khadr was eventually given "operational responsibility" for organizing attacks on U.S. forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He was reportedly killed in 2003.


INTELWIRE publishes exclusive FOIA and purchased documents as a resource for journalists and researchers. Please cite if reporting directly from these pages.

Full text of FBI affidavit regarding Ahmed and Abdullah Khadr

Related stories (external links):

From London to Toronto: Dismantling Cells, dodging their ideology

Latest developments in Toronto

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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