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Canada and Terrorism

Posted: January, 2004

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that terrorist groups have been operating effectively in Canada by taking advantage of Canada's liberal immigration and political asylum policies and the porous Canadian-American border.

Terrorist-related activities in Canada include fundraising, lobbying through front organizations, providing support for terrorist operations in Canada or abroad, procuring weapons and materiel, coercing and manipulating immigrant communities in Canada, facilitating transit to and from the U.S. and other countries, and other illegal activities.

According to an August 2002 report of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), " with the possible exception of the United States, there are more international terrorist organizations active in Canada than anywhere in the world.

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This situation can be attributed to Canada's proximity to the United States which currently is the principal target of terrorist groups operating internationally; and to the fact that Canada, a country built upon immigration, represents a microcosm of the world. It is therefore not surprising that the world's extremist elements are represented here, along with peace-loving citizens. Terrorist groups are present here whose origins lie in regional, ethnic and nationalist conflicts, including the Israeli Palestinian one, as well as those in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, the Punjab, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia."

According to the CSIS, in recent years, terrorists have moved "from significant support roles, such as fundraising and procurement, to actually planning and preparing terrorist acts from Canadian territory. In order to carry out these efforts, terrorists and their supporters use intimidation and other coercive methods in immigrant communities, and they abuse Canada's immigration, pass-port, welfare, and charity regulations."

The Canadian-American Border and Immigration Policies

The U.S.-Canada border, stretching for over 4,000 miles, is the longest international border in the world.

In December 1999, Algerian terrorist Ahmed Ressam was caught trying to cross the Canadian-American border at Port Angeles, Washington, with explosives in his car. Ressam belonged to a Montreal-based terrorist cell thought to be linked to both the Algerian terrorist group Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and Al Qaeda. The cell was apparently planning a millennium terror attack at Los Angeles International Airport. In April 2001 Ressam was convicted in Los Angeles of conspiracy to commit terrorism, document fraud and possession of deadly explosives.

The ease with which Ahmed Ressam and his fellow terror cell members entered and left Canada and Ressam's ability to assemble bomb-making materials in Canada heightened concerns about border security and the apparent ease with which potential terrorists can move freely from one country to the other. According to the CSIS, terrorists from 50 different international terrorist organizations come to Canada posing as refugees. Nearly 300,000 immigrants are admitted each year to Canada, many of whom seek political asylum and safe haven. Canada, however, does not detain refugee seekers upon entry, even those with questionable backgrounds, so thousands of potential terrorists disappear annually into Canada's ethnic communities. Armed with a fraudulent French passport, for example, Ahmed Ressam had entered Canada in 1994 claiming refugee status.

In America, the debate continues as to the utility of tightening the Canadian-U.S. border. Those arguing for increased border security maintain that such controls will deter terrorists. Others argue that increasing the quality and quantity of checkpoints will ultimately do little to restrict the movements of terrorists but would result in decreased trade between the countries and would disrupt the legitimate flow of people across the border. Canada is America's largest trading partner, accounting for more than one-fifth of America's exports and a little less than one-fifth of its imports. On a daily basis, there is $1.9 billion in trade across the shared border.

In December 2001, the U.S. and Canada signed a Joint Statement of Cooperation on Border Security and Regional Migration Issues.The declaration established a joint action plan for deter-ring, detecting and prosecuting security threats while ensuring the free flow of people and goods across the border. In November 2003, the U.S. and Canada announced the creation of two more Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) to improve security across the border. IBETs are multi-agency teams combining U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, immigration and customs officials, working together daily with local, state and provincial enforcement agencies.They are strategically located along the length of the border to ensure it remains open to trade and travel, but closed to criminal or terrorist elements. With the two new ones, there are now 14 IBETs covering every strategic location across the U.S.- Canada border.

Islamic Extremist Activity

Islamic extremists and their supporters from Al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and Egyptian Islamic Jihad are among those suspected of operating in Canada.

Al Qaeda

Canadian authorities have publicly identified 25 Canadian residents/citizens as members of Al Qaeda.

A major Al Qaeda/GIA cell was Ahmed Ressam's Montreal-based terror cell. Among the cell's other members are Fateh Kamel, convicted in Paris in April 2001 of supplying fake passports to Islamic militants; Mokhtar Haouari, sentenced in New York in 2002 to 24 years in prison for providing a fake driver's license and other assistance to Ressam; Samir Ait Mohamed, indicted by U.S. authorities in 2001 on charges of conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism and currently fighting extradition from Canada to the U.S.; and Mourad Ikhlef, accused by Canada of advising Ressam on how to handle explosives and carry out the Los Angeles Airport attack. Canada deported Ikhlef to Algeria in March 2003.

Egyptian-born longtime Canadian resident Ahmad Sa'id Al-Khadr left Toronto for Pakistan to become the regional coordinator for the Canadian-based Human Concern International, a charity that has allegedly diverted funds to Al Qaeda. He reportedly became a senior aide to Osama bin Laden. Al-Khadr was detained by Pakistani authorities for his alleged involvement in the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad but was later released, reportedly, after the personal intercession of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. In October 2001, the U.S. froze his assets and in December 2001, the U.S. placed him on a list of nine Al Qaeda members most wanted by the U.S. He is believed to be in Afghanistan.

One of Khadr's sons, Omar Khadr, was arrested in Afghanistan in July 2002 after he allegedly murdered a U.S. army medic with a grenade. He is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay. Another one of his sons, Abdul Rahman Khadr, was captured by Northern Alliance troops in Kabul in November 2001 while allegedly fighting for Al Qaeda and later sent to Guantanamo. In November 2003, against the background of the U.S. releasing a number of detainees from Guantanamo, Abdul Rahman Khadr was freed. On November 30, 2003, Canadian authorities permitted Khadr to reenter Canada.

The U.S. is currently holding Canadian Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who, according to U.S. officials, admitted involvement in a series of Al Qaeda plots in Southeast Asia. Jabarah's brother, Abdulrahman Mansour Jabarah, was killed in July 2003 by Saudi authorities in a firefight near the Jordanian border. Both brothers are suspected of joining Al Qaeda in the late 1990s.

An Al Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris also had a Canadian element to it. In June 2002, Canadian authorities arrested Algerian-born Montreal resident Adel Tobbichi, a.k.a. Amine Mezbar, who allegedly altered passports and other documents to allow members of the embassy conspiracy cell to travel throughout Europe. He was extradited to the Netherlands in July 2002.

Following the leads of the UN Security Council and the U.S., Canada shut down the offices of several Islamic charities operating on Canadian soil, with alleged links to Al Qaeda. These include: Benevolence International Fund, Islamic Relief Organization, Muslim World League and the SAAR Foundation.


Hezbollah is believed to have an active presence in Canada. According to Canadian intelligence, Canada is an important source of Hezbollah fundraising and recruitment as well as a key component of the group's international network.

In June 2002, two members of a North Carolina-based Hezbollah terror cell were convicted of providing material support to the terrorist organization. Their cell was part of a larger Hezbollah network that raised funds and procured dual-use technologies for Hezbollah. The Canadian part of the network was allegedly run by Mohammed Hassan Dbouk and his brother-in-law Ali Adham Amhaz, who allegedly received money from Hezbollah officials in Lebanon and engaged in credit card and banking scams in Canada in order to finance the purchase in Canada and the U.S. of night-vision goggles, global positioning systems, stun guns, laser range finders and other military items which were then smuggled into Lebanon. Amhaz was indicted in North Carolina in March 2001 on charges of providing material support to Hezbollah. In October 2001, Canadian authorities arrested him based on an American arrest warrant calling for his extradition. Amhaz was freed in December 2001 after the U.S. dropped the arrest warrant; the U.S. indictment against him still stands. Dbouk fled to Lebanon.

Also in June 2002, Israeli authorities arrested Lebanese-born Canadian Fawzi Ayoub, 39, who had entered Israel on a fake American passport. He is accused of being a Hezbollah fighter and of training Palestinian militants in the West Bank in Hezbollah bomb-making techniques.

The Canadian government had originally refused to include Hezbollah on its list of banned terrorist organizations claiming that it is also a humanitarian and political organization. After domestic and international pressure, Canada finally banned Hezbollah in December 2002.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are believed to raise money in Canada. The Hamas-linked Holy Land Foundation has raised hundreds of thou-sands of dollars in Canada. Both terrorist groups were banned in Canada in November 2002.

In early December 2003, the Israeli government announced that it had arrested in November a Palestinian-born Canadian man, Jamal Akkal, 23, who confessed to being recruited and trained by Hamas' military wing in Gaza. Akkal reportedly had orders to kill Israeli officials and Jews in Canada and the U.S. According to Israeli authorities, senior Hamas militant Ahmed Wahabe allegedly told Akkal to raise funds among Muslims in Canada ostensibly for the families of suicide bombers, which he would actually use for purchasing a weapon and financing his attacks.

Sikh Extremism and the Air India Bombings Trial

In June 1985, suspected Sikh militants bombed an Air India flight originating in Vancouver, killing all 329 people aboard, including 154 Canadians. The bombing was the single, deadliest incident of aviation terrorism until September 11th. Canadian authorities believe that the bombing was masterminded and perpetrated by Sikh terrorists operating from Canada, some of whom were Canadian citizens. Two Canadian-based Sikhs, Ripudaman Singh Malik, 53, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 51, are currently on trial in Vancouver for involvement in the aircraft bombing and for another suitcase bombing at Narita Airport in Tokyo, that killed two baggage handlers. Another British Columbian Sikh extremist, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was convicted in 1991 of building the Tokyo bomb and pleaded guilty in February 2003 to aiding in the construction of the Air India bomb.

The Canadian government believes the bombings were part of a conspiracy by British Columbia-based Sikh extremists to take revenge against the Indian government for its 1984 storming of the Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine. The Indian government sought to flush out armed Sikh extremists fighting for a separate Sikh homeland. Bagri, a former preacher and supporter of Sikh separatism, was second in command in the Babbar Khalsa, a terrorist group dedicated to the creation of a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan. Babbar Khalsa raised funds in Canada until its charitable status was revoked in the mid 1990s. The Canadian government added Babbar Khalsa to its list of banned terrorist organizations in June 2003.

Tamil Extremist Activity

Another terrorist group active in Canada is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a violent separatist movement of the Tamil Hindu minority in Sri Lanka which has waged, since 1983, a bloody war for an independent Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is Canada's leading source of refugees and there are over 250,000 Tamils in Canada. Home to 200,000 Tamils, Toronto is the largest Tamil city outside of Sri Lanka. Canadian intelligence believes that there are 8,000 former LTTE guerrillas in Toronto.

The LTTE draws significant financial and political support from the Canadian Tamil community. The Sri Lankan government estimates that the LTTE raises about $120 million a year, up to a quarter of this amount from supporters in Canada. According to Canadian police and intelligence agencies, the LTTE raises money in Canada through donations, organized crime and LTTE front organizations. LTTE supporters in Canada are suspected of involvement in a number of illegal activities such as drug trafficking, human smuggling and passport forgery and fraud. They have also been a major factor in spawning Tamil street gangs in Toronto.

The major LTTE front groups in Canada, according to the U.S. State Department, are the World Tamil Movement and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils, the major umbrella organization for pro-LTTE groups. According to the Canadian-based Mackenzie Institute, these two pro-LTTE groups dominate Canadian Tamil life whereas the front organizations for other terrorist groups, like those sup-porting Islamic extremist groups or Sikh terrorist groups, do not exert the same level of influence on and control over the lives of the members of the particular ethnic community.

According to the Mackenzie Institute, the LTTE fundraising machine in Canada is "arguably the most sophisticated of any terrorist organization being undertaken on Canadian soil." Donations are both voluntary, through regular contributions, and coerced, through extortion and intimidation. Pro-LTTE messages are regularly broadcast over the four Tamil 24-hour radio stations, Tamil-language television shows and 10 Tamil weekly newspapers. These media outlets risk the loss of advertising and face intimidating violence if they do not take a pro-LTTE line.

The U.S., Britain and Australia have designated the LTTE as a terrorist organization. The LTTE does not appear on Canada's list of banned terrorist organizations. Canadian Foreign MinisterBill Graham reportedly blocked adding the LTTE to the list because of the ongoing negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

Canadian Anti-Terror Initiatives

In December 2001, the Canadian Parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which made perpetrating, financing, or contributing to terrorist activity in Canada a crime. It is now a crime to knowingly support terrorist organizations through overt violence, documentary support, shelter or funds. The legislation requires the publication of a list of terrorist groups deemed to constitute a threat to the security of Canada and Canadians. The act also increased the government's investigative powers and paved the way for the country to sign the last two of the United Nations' 12 antiterrorism conventions.

At this writing, Canada has designated 34 foreign terrorist organizations. The assets of the groups have been frozen, and belonging to a banned terrorist group, raising money for it or supporting its activities is a crime that could bring up to 10 years in prison. Most recently, in November 2003, Canada added to the list the Palestine Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command

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