Deportations put Canada at risk of attack

posted on November 23, 2004 | in Category Canada's Immigration Policy | PermaLink

Original author: Stewart Bell, for The National Post Source: The Ottawa Citizen URL: [link] (subscribers only) Date: November 22, 2004 Report warns retaliation possible for removal of al-Qaeda associates

TORONTO - A new Canadian intelligence report says terrorists might attack Canada in retaliation for the arrests of several al-Qaeda associates who are being deported for reasons of national security. In the report, titled Al-Qaeda: Potential Threats to North American Targets, the federal government's threat analysis unit said Canada's efforts to deport al-Qaeda suspects could trigger a violent response. "Canadian agencies have aggressively pursued removal proceedings against inadmissible classes of foreign nationals associated with al-Qaeda constituents, which may also provide extremists with an impetus to attack Canadian interests." The report by the Integrated National Security Assessment Centre (INSAC) was labelled Restricted Distribution because of its "sensitive nature," but a copy was disclosed to the National Post under the Access to Information Act.It is the latest signal to emerge from the federal government that there may be a genuine al-Qaeda threat to Canada, even if many Canadians do not consider their country to be in the sights of the global jihadist terror network.

Canadian authorities have captured several alleged al-Qaeda associates in Ontario and Quebec, notably Egyptians Mahmoud Jaballah and Mohamed Mahjoub, Adil Chark-aoui of Morocco and Algerian Mohammed Harkat.

Several others, such as Algerians Samir Air Mohamed of Vancouver and Abdellah Ouz-ghar of Hamilton, have been arrested for extradition to stand trial in the United States and France, respectively.

Last March, Canadian police arrested an Ottawa computer expert on charges he was part of a radical cell that was plotting a bombing in Britain. He is alleged to have used his computer skills to help build a bomb using ammonium nitrate.

The report notes that al-Qaeda ranked Canada as "the fifth most important Christian country to be targeted, following the U.S., the U.K., Spain and Australia." Of those, Canada is the only to not yet suffer an attack.

Canadian security agencies say they have found indicators that terrorists may be in the planning stages of an attack, including incidents involving the videotaping of possible targets in Toronto. Last year, Pakistani authorities found a list of Canadian targets in the pocket of a captured al-Qaeda operative. Toronto's Union Station was among the targets identified.

Although the Liberals opposed the invasion of Iraq, al-Qaeda considers Canada a legitimate target because of the Canadian troop presence in Afghanistan and Canada's participation in the U.S.-led war on terror.

One of Canada's main counterterrorism tools is a section of the immigration law that allows the government to deport non-Canadians suspected of involvement in terrorist groups.

The section is used sparingly, but there are several ongoing cases involving suspected operatives in the al-Qaeda network and affiliated groups such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Algerian Armed Islamic Group.

Intelligence analysts fear the deportation proceedings could prompt retribution, although the cases often drag on for many years through repeated court appeals and terrorists can sometimes avoid deportation by arguing they might be tortured in their homelands.

The report said al-Qaeda continues to have a presence in Canada.

"Al-Qaeda and like-minded Sunni Islamic extremist groups have adherents in Canada and abroad who possess Canadian status," it said.

A second series of intelligence reports disclosed to the Post, classified Secret: For Canadian Eyes Only, shows Canadian intelligence analysts were concerned that al-Qaeda might strike during last summer's Olympic Games in Athens.

There were particular concerns that al-Qaeda would target Canadians. The anticipated scenarios included an attack on the Greek railway system and a truck bombing, possibly using chemical, biological or radiological weapons.

"International and transnational terrorist groups, particularly Sunni extremist groups, may view the Games as a venue for highlighting their respective objectives. One such group includes al-Qaeda and/or like-minded groups opposing the West," a report said.

"As Canada is considered a legitimate target by al-Qaeda, Canadian interests at the Games could potentially be targeted."

The games passed without any major security incidents.

INSAC is based at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and is composed of federal security agencies including CSIS, RCMP, national defence, foreign affairs and immigration.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2004