Saturday, January 30, 2010


*** Killing your own Muslim countrymen. More proof that these people are Mujrimeen (criminals) not Mujahideen (holy warriors). Don't worry - no Muslim will be protesting the killings. MS ***


KHAR, Pakistan - A suicide bomber killed 16 people Saturday at a police checkpoint in a northwest Pakistani tribal area where the military declared victory over the Taliban and al-Qaida last year, highlighting the difficulty Islamabad has in holding regions once the battle phase of its army offensives end.

Elsewhere in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, suspected U.S. missiles killed nine alleged militants, intelligence officials said.

Fourteen civilians and two police officers died in the suicide attack in the Bajur tribal region, while 20 people were wounded, local government official Bakhat Pacha said. The attacker, on foot, struck a market area in the region's main town, Khar, he said.

Some of the wounded were in critical condition at hospitals, he said.

The attack came a day after officials said security forces had killed 44 militants in three days of battles on the outskirts of Khar.

Pakistan waged a major military offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in Bajur in 2008, declaring victory over the militants by February 2009. But in recent weeks, clashes and now this latest suicide attack have signalled a deteriorating security situation in the area.

The violence comes as Pakistan's army has focused on an offensive in South Waziristan tribal region, the primary stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. That military operation is believed to have led many militants to flee to other parts of the tribal belt.

The U.S. has praised the Pakistani operations, but also wants Islamabad to pursue militants in North Waziristan, where many of the insurgent groups are focused on battling Western troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Washington has waged its own fight in Pakistan's tribal territories through its covert CIA-led missile program.

Overnight Saturday, three suspected U.S. missiles hit a compound and a bunker in the Mohammad Khel area of North Waziristan, part of a surge of the drone-fired strikes, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The mountainous area is where a suspected U.S. drone is reported to have crashed on Jan. 24, they added.

Two missiles in Saturday's attack hit the compound being used by the militants, killing seven of them, the intelligence officials said. The third killed two more insurgents in the bunker, they said.

Another such missile strike early this month targeted a meeting of militant commanders in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have played a role in the Dec. 30 suicide bombing of a remote CIA base in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province that killed seven of the agency's employees. Analysts suspect the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked Afghan Taliban faction based in North Waziristan, also helped carry out the CIA attack.

Since the CIA was hit, the U.S. has carried out 13 suspected drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley of attacks since the missile program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago.

The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

The U.S. does not usually comment on the strikes or their targets, but officials have said in the past that they have taken out several senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders. The Pakistani government publicly condemns the strikes as violations of its sovereignty, yet it is thought to have a secret deal with Washington allowing them.

Friday, January 29, 2010


*** Either you walk away or you step up. MS ***


BRAMPTON — In a passionate outburst before a Superior Court judge yesterday, "Toronto 18" member Shareef Abdelhaleem vowed that should he ever hear of another bomb plot, he would simply "walk away" and allow events to take their course.

"I tried my best to reduce everything," testified Abdelhaleem, who insisted yesterday his participation in the Toronto 18 plot was aimed at mitigating harm to civilians.

"Next time -- well, there will be no next time -- but next time I hear someone trying to blow something up, I'm just going to walk away," Abdelhaleem told the court.

If the hypothetical plot then succeeded, he said, he would walk into a police station and inform authorities: "I knew all about this and did absolutely nothing to stop it."

He said he would tell families who lost loved ones the same thing.

Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of participating in a 2006 terrorist plot to bomb three targets in southern Ontario, including a regional Canadian Security Intelligence Service facility, a military base and the Toronto Stock Exchange. The defence argues he was entrapped by police, and Abdelhaleem has been testifying at a hearing on that matter.

Abdelhaleem says he gained an inside line on the bomb plot so he could have the power to stop it -- actions he believes the Crown is now persecuting him for.

Under cross-examination by Crown attorney Croft Michaelson, Abdelhaleem admitted he helped bomb plot leader Zakaria Amara in his plans to acquire three tonnes of ammonium nitrate -- even placing chemical orders on his own initiative at times -- while at the same time failing to voice opposition to the bombings themselves.

But Abdelhaleem attempted to focus the court's attention on his efforts to reduce the amount of harm done by the attacks, dismissing as "outrageous" Amara's alleged plan to include metal shards in the bombs to cause more civilian casualties. Abdelhaleem said he felt obliged to stop that from happening.

"I didn't know what I was going to do. I had no plan," he told the court. But he testified that if Amara moved that part of the plot forward, "I was going to sabotage it somehow."

Abdelhaleem, 34, said he also encouraged the group to make smaller bombs to "reduce" the explosive impact.

"I was not taking an initiative to blow something up," he told the judge, noting he was determined to get the address of the terrorist group's chemical storehouse so "if I were to intervene, I'd know where the store was."

One idea Abdelhaleem says he considered was putting a humidifier inthe storehouse to destroy the bomb chemicals, which were supposed to be kept free of moisture, once they arrived.

Abdelhaleem, who referred to himself as a "middleman" between Amara and undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, told the court he volunteered to play that role because he believed he was doing nothing to advance the plot and thus doing nothing wrong, "so if I'm seen with Amara, that would be OK."

It was also a way to protect Mr. Elsohemy-- whom he considered a friend at the time -- and to gain information about the chemical storehouse, Abdelhaleem testified.
An adamant and animated Abdelhaleem, speaking in a quick burst, told the judge he wanted to "highlight and bold" that point.


*** I told you, if it checks out - charge and arrest him. People like this ruin the name of all the good, law-abiding Muslim scholars who are actually qualified to give fatwas. MS ***

The father of "Toronto 18" bomb plotter Shareef Abdelhaleem says he never issued a fatwa sanctioning terrorist acts in Canada, despite contradictory testimony from a star Crown witness at his son's trial.

Mohammed Tariq Abdelhaleem, speaking outside Brampton court today after testifying at an entrapment hearing, suggested police agent Shaher Elsohemy invented the fatwa angle because he held "a grudge against me and my son."

A self-described "thinker, not a terrorist," the elder Abdelhaleem, 62, used to teach Islamic education classes in Mississauga and worked as a nuclear engineer until his son's arrest. He has since retired.

During testimony at Shareef Abdelhaleem's trial, Mr. Elsohemy said the accused obtained a fatwa, or religious ruling, from his father saying an attack in Canada would be "acceptable."

Mr. Elsohemy told the judge that upon receiving the ruling, Shareef Abdelhaleem said "things are clear for him now... He has no doubts about [the plot's] Islamic correctness."

Mohammed Tariq Abdelhaleem denied the story today, saying his son was well aware of his opposition to terrorism and would have had no need to ask for a fatwa. He believes he, and not his son, was Mr. Elsohemy's ultimate target because of a personal disagreement between their families.

"He's punishing me in the shape of my son."

Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, was found guilty last week of participating in a terrorist plot to detonate powerful truck bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS regional office on Front Street and a military base between Toronto and Ottawa. The entrapment hearing is examining whether there was an abuse of police process in the case.

Thursday, January 28, 2010



Shareef Abdelhaleem testified Thursday morning that he purposely positioned himself as the middleman of a potentially deadly terrorist plot because he wanted to learn key details about it in case he decided to sabotage it.

The member of the so-called Toronto 18 said he was as an “outsider”, and not part of the ‘bombing club,’ which he said was made up of mastermind Zakaria Amara and undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, who was to supply bomb making material.

The 34-year-old told the Brampton court that he did not agree with Amara’s plan to put metal chips in bombs, so as to maximize casualties, which is why he considered sabotaging the plan.

“Amara wanted to do some outrageous things, put nails and shards and everything else, I was the one who told him not to,” said Abdelhaleem.

“I don’t know what I was going to do, I had no plan… If I heard any of that stupidness about putting shards…. I was going to sabotage it somehow.”

But in order to sabotage the plans, Abdelhaleem said, he needed intimate details about it. That’s why, he explained, he wanted to be present at meetings between Amara and Elsohemy, so he could learn details such as the address of the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate fertilizer was to be delivered.

“I just knew at that point, if I had the address I’d be at an advantage,” Abdelhaleem told the court, arguing he was entrapped by his friend turned police agent. “If I were to intervene, I'd know where the store was.”

The Mississauga man said he even made suggestions about how to store the fertilizer, such as removing it from its original packages and transferring it into garbage bags, placing the bags inside cardboard boxes and stacking them high.

But again, he said that was in the event he decided to derail the bomb plot, perhaps by running a humidifier in the warehouse, which would ruin the fertilizer, making it useless for explosives.

Abdehaleem also testified that he never asked his father for a fatwa, or religious ruling, to justify blowing up buildings in downtown Toronto.

In earlier proceedings, Elsohemy testified that Abdelhaleem had said his father had told him it was Islamically acceptable to launch a terror attack in Canada.

But Abdelhaleem testified that he told Elsohemy, on two occasions, that his father never issued a fatwa, saying he knew his father was against terrorism.

One week ago, Abdelhaleem was found guilty of participating in a 2006 explosives plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto offices of Canada’s spy agency and a military base off Highway 401.

Before a conviction is registered, the judge must rule on whether Abdelhaleem was entrapped.

Abdelhaleem was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006 with belonging to a cell that organized terrorist training camps and planned to blow up buildings with three tones of ammonium nitrate.

Last week, Amara was sentenced to life in prison.

The hearing continues.



By his own admission, Toronto 18 terrorist Shareef Abdelhaleem is a cokehead and a wastrel.

The last time he paid income tax (which, as far as he can remember was about seven years ago), the 34-year-old Mississauga man earned $357,000 doing freelance computer work. But, he told a Brampton court Wednesday, he spent most of that on the luxuries of life – "drinking, drugs, women."

As a teenager, he was kicked out of his home several times. He spent four years in a University of Toronto computer science program but never graduated.

Oh yes. And, as he acknowledged in court, he took part in plans to blow up buildings in downtown Toronto – all of which earned him a guilty verdict last week in this judge-only trial.

Abdelhaleem is the first of the so-called Toronto 18 terror group to testify in court. The picture he presents of himself (which jibes with the one given last week by the Crown's chief witness against him) is anything but black and white.

He is certainly no hard-eyed Islamist ideologue. Some of the 9/11 bombers were said to have adopted Western vices as a guise. Not Abdelhaleem. His vices were genuine. Well before he became involved in the bomb plot, he said, he was a druggie. On the days leading up to a serious 2006 heart operation, he continued to take cocaine even though he feared this might cause surgical complications.

After his operation and while the bomb plot was being prepared, he said, he would go on regular cocaine binges, speeding along for a few days until he crashed from exhaustion. Then he would start all over again.

He popped prescription painkillers until his doctor cut him off. The high they gave him, he told the judge, "was pretty good."

But at the same time, he was hardly an innocent. He knew about convicted bomb plot mastermind Zakaria Amara's plans to wreak havoc but didn't tell the police. "I'm not a rat. Period." he explained.

Nor did he think Amara was just playing games. As he told the court, he assumed the worst – that Amara would go through with his plans and that many would die.

In what might seem a bizarre twist of logic, he said he tried to convince Amara and fellow plotter Shaher Elsohemy (who, in the end, turned out to be an RCMP mole) to set off smaller 100-kilogram bombs rather than the one-tonne versions they were contemplating.

The reason, he told court, was that this would allow Amara to "get it out of his system" without doing too much damage.

The entrapment hearing taking place this week is to determine whether the RCMP, through its agent Elsohemy, encouraged Abdelhaleem to commit a crime.

The court has already heard that after Elsohemy became involved, the RCMP decided to move their counter-terror operations into high gear by providing the plotters not only with apparent bomb-making materials but with a place to store them. The Mounties also directed their mole to pressure the plotters into acting quickly.

On Wednesday, Abdelhaleem testified that the mole asked him to rent a house that could be used to make bombs. The defendant said he pretended to go along with the idea but had no intention of following through. As he explained, he didn't want to have his signature on a rental form for a bomb factory – he wasn't that stupid.

However, the main defence he articulated was that – except perhaps for his failure to notify police – he didn't think he was doing anything illegal. Referring to his role as the intermediary between the plot leader and the mole, he called himself a mailman ... strictly there passing messages ...

In Abdelhaleem's mind, as long as he confined himself to this middleman job, he'd be on the right side of the law. "I wasn't doing anything," he told the court. "I didn't think mere words were a crime."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Toronto 18 bomb plotter Shareef Abdelhaleem testified in a Brampton court Wednesday that he was originally opposed to the explosives plot because he was against terrorism, but that an undercover police agent “was very excited” about the prospect and of making money from such an attack.

The 34-year-old, who is arguing he was entrapped by friend turned informant Shaher Elsohemy, said that when details of the bomb plot were laid out for them by Zakaria Amara, he was opposed to it.

“I reiterated basically why I think Zak was wrong and everything else, this and that. That was my part. Elsohemy seemed to be for it. He was very excited,” recalled Abdelhaleem about a discussion the trio had in early April 2006.

“He was excited in two ways: doing something meaningful, I guess, doing something for God, and the prospect that he wouldn’t have to drive a s---ty car anymore. ... We were talking about making money off the stock market, he was very excited about that.”

Abdelhaleem, who took the stand for the first time in open court, said he raised the issue of making money from a terrorist attack, pointing out to Elsohemy that some people made money after 9/11 but that the discussion “was quickly dismissed.”

He also admitted that he sought advice about how to play the stock market and hide money in an offshore account, but the idea “died out.”

Abdelhaleem told the court that he had talked about going for jihad in Afghanistan and wanted to receive in training in Pakistan. But he dismissed it as idle chatter and as something that many Muslims talk about.

He went on to explain that there is a distinction between jihad and terrorism.

A jihadist has a certain rules of engagement with whoever he’s performing jihad against. Terrorism is a guy who is blind to all these rules, a guy who is pissed off and wiling to do anything. It’s not right.

To this day, Abdelhaleem maintains he is against acts of terrorism, and said although prosecutors will have a “hard time” believing him, “you can’t do that, you just can’t do that.”

Throughout his testimony, the Mississauga man appeared restless, often touching his face and rubbing his beard. At points his voice grew louder and at other points he trailed off into inaudible mumbles.

Last week, Abdelhaleem was found guilty of participating in a 2006 explosives plot to bomb targets such as the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto offices of Canada’s spy agency and a military base off Highway 401.

The verdict came days after Amara was sentenced to life for his role in the plot, which included building a remote controlled detonator and purchasing three tonnes of ammonium nitrate destined for truck bombs.

This week, defence lawyer William Naylor launched an entrapment hearing to determine whether police conduct in Abdelhaleem’s case constituted an abuse of process.

Abdelhaleem was among 18 people charged in the summer of 2006 with belonging to a homegrown terror cell, which organized terrorist training camps and planned to blow up buildings.

At the time of his arrest, court was told, he was a successful software developer whose last tax filings, in 2003 or 2004, showed an annual income of $375,000.

The money, said Abdelhaleem, was spent on “trips, clothes, everything else you know, drinking, drugs, women.”

Before his arrest, there had also been efforts to arrange a marriage between Abdelhaleem and one of the daughters of the infamous Khadr clan, known as Canada’s al Qaeda family.

“I called it off right away. ... I just wanted to stay out of trouble,” said Abdelhaleem, adding, “They’re very nice people from what I hear.

The hearing is expected to last the week.


*** We all know the Conservative government is the patron party of the RCMP - and both of them abhor oversight, accountability and transparency. Not for much longer, I promise. MS ***


The new interim chair of the independent RCMP Public Complaints Commission, Ian McPhail, is a long-time supporter of the Conservative party with no relevant qualifications for the job. The man he is replacing, Paul Kennedy, boasts considerable national and international public safety experience, but lost his position after making critical comments about the government’s public safety policies.

Paul Kennedy

Over 35 years of public service, past RCMP Public Complaints Commission Chair Paul Kennedy was the Canada’s Co-Chair of the Canada-U.S. Cross Border Crime Forum, Chair of the Canadian National Co-ordinating Committee on Organized Crime, Chair of the Assistant Deputy Ministers Committee on Public Safety and Chair of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission of the Organization of American States.

First appointed Chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission in 2005, during his tenure Mr. Kennedy investigated Taser use, in-custody deaths, and the internal investigation procedures of the RCMP.

Ian McPhail

Ian McPhail was named Vice-Chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission by Peter Van Loan on January 18, 2010. His appointment as “interim chair” is expected to last at least one year.

Mr. McPhail is a wills and real estate lawyer with no criminal law or policing experience.

He was appointed Chair of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Acting Chair and Director of TV Ontario, and Chair of the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal under Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris.


*** All these get-tough-on-crime bills...aren't they off the table thanks to the proroguing of parliament? MS ***


Whenever Stephen Harper is backed into a corner, truth is the first casualty.

Witness Mr. Harper’s comments yesterday in Truro, Nova Scotia, regarding to the sentencing of Amin Durrani, one of the Toronto 18:

"This government brought in a law this past fall that would eliminate that provision in the criminal code so that these types of criminals and terrorists would no longer have those types of sentences. Unfortunately it could not apply to this. It took us a long time to get this through Parliament because, as with so many other of our laws, they were fought every step of the way including in the Senate of Canada where Fred (Dickson) and our Conservative senators fought a pitched battle. The Liberals kept gutting our legislation and we kept changing it back and we finally got it through and so finally this two-for-one and in some cases three-for-one credit for time served has been eliminated... let me just say this to remind you why there will be more Conservative colleagues joining Senator Dickson in the Senate to make sure these kinds of laws go through even quicker in the future."


Stephen Harper is being disingenuous on four fronts:

1. Even though the bill has passed, it would not apply in the case of Mr. Durrani. Harsher sentencing provisions cannot be applied retroactively; offenders are only subject to the Criminal Code that was in place at the time they committed the crime. In the case of the Toronto 18, sentencing provisions in place in 2006 would apply.

2. Liberals called for this bill before the government introduced it, having joined with several of the Western Attorneys General to call for the elimination of two-for-one credit for time served in response to the escalation of gang violence in Vancouver in early 2009.

3. Liberals helped this bill speed through the House. In fact, it would have passed sooner if the government hadn’t insisted upon dealing with other legislation first. More to the point, the Senate dealt with the bill quickly. The government introduced it in the Senate right before Parliament rose for the summer, effectively preventing it from being passed at that point. Once the Senate returned, it was passed in about a month.

4. Finally, although the bill has passed and received royal assent in October 2009, the Harper Cabinet still has not brought the law into force – a delay which is 100 percent the fault of the government.



Brampton, Ont. — A Toronto 18 member found guilty of terrorism offences told court Wednesday that terrorism is "BS," because it's not right to kill civilians to advance a political agenda.

Shareef Abdelhaleem, 34, dressed in a black collared shirt with the top few buttons undone and sleeves rolled up, took the stand at his trial and casually discussed his large salary, his cocaine use and his musings on terrorism.

Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion, but not convicted as the defence argues an entrapment motion.

His lawyer, William Naylor, asked Abdelhaleem to tell the court how he defines jihad versus terrorism.

While jihad is "armed conflict with armed men," terrorism is a "guy who is blind to all these rules -- a guy who is pissed off and willing to do anything," Abdelhaleem said. "It's not right."

Everyone knew his position on the subject, including Zakaria Amara, who one night in April laid out a plot to bomb three targets, Abdelhaleem said. Amara was sentenced to life this month for his role in the terror plot.

Abdelhaleen told the court that his position was to denounce "any act of violence toward a certain political means."

"This act of violence would have absolutely no rules, if civilians were all OK to get killed, they were collateral damage," he said.

"This is all BS."

Abdelhaleem said the Crown might doubt his position, but, "I still think... you can't do that. You just can't do that."

Shaher Elsohemy, a former friend of Abdelhaleem who became a police agent to infiltrate the Toronto 18, testified that after Amara laid out his plan to bomb the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base Abdelhaleem objected on moral grounds.

But, Elsohemy testified, Abdelhaleem then became excited at the prospect of profiting financially from an attack on the stock exchange.

However, Abdelhaleem told court Wednesday that it was Elsohemy who talked of monetary gain.

"He was excited in two ways: doing something meaningful, I guess, doing something for God, and the prospect that he wouldn't have to drive" an old, broken down car anymore, Abdelhaleem said.

"We were talking about making money off the stock market. He was very excited about that."

Abdelhaleem portrayed himself as being on the outside of discussions between Amara and Elsohemy about bombs and jihad before the night Amara revealed his plot.

It was "weird," Abdelhaleem said. "Who sits down and talks about fertilizer?"

Abdelhaleem testified he didn't even have any money at that time to invest in a scheme to profit from an attack on the stock market.

The software developer who drove a blue convertible BMW also told the court he was a "little behind" on his taxes because he "didn't like paying them," but the last year he filed them he made $357,000.

He mostly spent his money on vacations and clothing, as well as "drinking, drugs (and) women," Abdelhaleem said.

Abdelhaleem readily admitted he was high on cocaine one night when a security guard told him the windshield of his BMW had been broken. Abdelhaleem believed one of Elsohemy's brothers was responsible, and their ensuing arguments led to the breakdown of their friendship.

His anger over the incident was not about money, Abdelhaleem said, as the eventual cost of the repair -- $265 -- was less than one night's worth of cocaine.

"I was just upset," he said. "For no reason I've got to go stand in a line somewhere, sit in a waiting room and wait for the thing to get fixed (and) God knows if they have the sizes."



TORONTO, Canada — A man found guilty of Canada’s biggest terrorist conspiracy since the 9/11 attacks seems to have given new meaning to the term “homegrown” extremist.

Shareef Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of being a key player in a plot for mass murder on the streets of downtown Toronto, Canada’s financial capital.

The twist comes from evidence that Abdelhaleem’s inspiration did not solely come from extremist interpretations of Islam. It also came, the court heard, from the practices of high-rolling Wall Street investors.

The plan was to blow up a truck packed with explosives in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange, another in front of the headquarters of Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and a third at a military base.

“The potential for loss of life existed on a scale never before seen in Canada,” Justice Bruce Durno said last week, while sentencing another of the accused ringleaders, Zakaria Amara, to life in prison.

The plot was stopped by Canada’s national police force, the RCMP, which paid two Muslim civilians to infiltrate the group of conspirators. The infiltrator who befriended Abdelhaleem received about $4 million for his work, which included a new home and identity under the witness protection program.

The infiltrator helped arrange a sting that saw the plotters buy a truckload of fake ammonium nitrate. Police arrested two of them in June 2006 as they unloaded the material, which, if it had been real, could have been used for a bomb. Sixteen others allegedly involved in the conspiracy were arrested minutes later.

The group became known as the Toronto 18. The infiltrator testified that Abdelhaleem, now 34, hoped the Al Qaeda leadership would eventually endorse the carnage as “an act of Al Qaeda in Canada.”

The plot came with a U.S. connection: In March 2005, two Georgia residents traveled to Canada to meet some of the Toronto 18 members. Ehsanul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed were convicted in American courts last summer of supporting terrorism in the U.S. and abroad.

In Toronto, four people were accused of being at the heart of the bomb plot — Abdelhaleem, Amara, Saad Gaya and Saad Khalid. All have been found guilty. Abdelhaleem, however, has not been convicted. His lawyer has introduced a motion to stay the case, which would see his client walk free, on the grounds of entrapment.

The others were accused of taking part in a jihad training camp in a wooden area north of Toronto, where they practiced shooting at targets with paintball guns and a handgun. Seven have had charges against them stayed or dropped, four face trials this spring, the rest were found guilty.

Fourteen of those arrested were young adults and four were under 18 years old. All were either born in Canada or spent most of their lives here. By any definition, they were homegrown. As an RCMP report recently noted, they communicated “in a sort of ‘hoser-gangsta’ patois,” and repeatedly proclaimed their love of Tim Horton’s doughnuts and the beauty of rural Ontario.

In many ways, they mirrored the profile of European or American jihadists. Some were marginalized or naive suburban youths influenced by extremist websites and angered by Western wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the plight of Palestinians.

Khalid, now 23, was shaken by personal trauma. When he was 16, he returned home from school to find his depressive mother dead, submerged in the bathtub. He turned to Islam for comfort, eventually hanging out with youths who held extremist views.

Amara, a Canadian citizen, was the lost, troubled type. Born to a Cypriot mother and a Jordanian father, he was baptized a Christian but turned to a fundamentalist brand of Islam while living in the Toronto bedroom community of Mississauga.

He married when he was 18 and became a father a year later. He dropped out of university to support his family and got a job pumping gas. His defense lawyer said he turned to extremism to get over the divorce of his parents and escape the drudgery of his life.

After pleading guilty last week, Amara apologized and read an “open letter to Canadians” in court: “I deserve nothing less than your complete contempt.”

The twist in the homegrown profile comes from Abdelhaleem. At the time of his arrest, he was a computer engineer with a six-figure salary driving a BMW. That in itself isn’t unusual: Some extremists have come from affluent backgrounds.

Also typical was evidence that he wanted change through violence; namely, getting the Canadian government to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. What made him different is evidence that he wanted to profit financially from the bombings.

The police agent who befriended him testified that Abdelhaleem said he wanted to attack the Toronto Stock Exchange, cause markets to plunge and make money by selling stocks “short.”

This is the Wall Street alchemy where investors profit by betting that stock prices will decline. Abdelhaleem, the agent testified, wanted to use the money to fund future terror attacks in New York and Chicago.

There were suspicions that “short-selling” occurred with airline stock prior to the 9/11 attacks. The Security Exchange Commission investigated but found no evidence.

Short-sellers on Wall Street were widely criticized for making a fortune by betting on the recent market collapse, helping to bring down Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers, and precipitating the latest recession.

Some might argue that when it comes to economic sabotage, Abdelhaleem learned from the real professionals. If so, he’s as homegrown as they come.



"Toronto 18" bomb plotter Shareef Abdelhaleem was against terrorism and felt like an "outsider" when his friends discussed the topic in the months leading to his 2006 arrest, a Superior Court judge heard this morning.

Abdelhaleem was testifying at an entrapment hearing in Brampton to determine whether police conduct in his case constituted an abuse of process. The 34-year-old software developer was found guilty last week of participating in a terrorist plot to detonate powerful truck bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS regional office on Front Street and a military base between Toronto and Ottawa.

A seemingly agitated Abdelhaleem talked interchangeably about his cocaine habit, his troubled relationship with his father and his contact with police agent Shaher Elsohemy, who helped foil the Toronto 18 plot.

Wearing a dark shirt and neat beard, a slumped Abdelhaleem spoke quickly and often trailed off into mumbles.

He told the court he believed in a strong distinction between jihad, which has "certain rules of engagement," and terrorism.

"Terrorism is a guy that is blind to all these rules. Pissed off and willing to do anything. It's not right," Abdelhaleem told the judge.

His testimony continues.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


*** "Islamic financing is based on the principle that charging interest on loans is forbidden". You heard that right: no juice. MS ***

OTTAWA - Most forms of Islamic financing, including Shariah-compliant mortgages, would pose no legal hurdles if widely offered in Canada, concludes a CMHC report expected Wednesday.

The 88-page Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. study notes that Islamic funding instruments are widely available throughout the world, but even in Muslim countries, often comprise a minority share.

Canada's Muslim community has taken the first tentative steps to privately offering Shariah-compliant mortgage-like products, but the practice is still in its infancy.

Islamic financing is based on the principle that charging interest on loans is forbidden.

The report, by the law firm Gowling, Lafleur Henderson LLP, found no legal impediment to the practice becoming more common.

"Islamic financial products should not present any particular difficulties under Canadian accounting standards," states the study.

It adds that "given the growth of Islamic financing internationally, it can be expected that international harmonization of IF accounting and reporting ... will occur in due course."

The CMHC prefaces the report by stating it has no plans to insure Shariah mortgages, nor does it plan to change current legislation or administrative practices.

Rather, it suggests that private entities would be open to pursue offering the unique financial services to Canada's Muslim community, believed to number about 700,000, if they wish.

The report was commissioned last year at a time when efforts were underway by Muslim financial firms to have one or more of Canada's large banks issue Shariah mortgages.

Instead of interest, Shariah-compliant mortgages function by having the lender become an equity partner in the purchase of the home. The homeowner then pays monthly "rent" or "profit," along with principal payments, to the financial institution putting up the rest of the purchase price.

The co-ownership of the property does create hurdles for lenders, the report notes.

Since lenders remain co-owners, the are equally legally liable in cases of environmental contamination, non-compliance with property standards, and also for property taxes, condominium fees and other responsibilities.

The study leaves open the question of demand in Canada for Shariah mortgages, but adds that "most Canadian firms offering Islamic housing finance state that demand currently exceeds supply."

Toronto-based UM Financial has estimated it has about 5,000 Canadian Muslim clients prepared to transfer their current conventional mortgages to Shariah-compliant ones once a bank begins offering the service.



OTTAWA - Michael Ignatieff is promising to strengthen and respect the independence of federal agencies that protect the health and safety of Canadians and hold government to account.

The Liberal leader says his willingness to give real teeth to the watchdogs shows he's prepared to put limits on prime ministerial power.

Among other things, he says a Liberal government would "seriously consider" creating a public-appointments commission to ensure those chosen to sit on various tribunals are qualified and independent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once promised such a commission but it has never materialized.

Liberals heard today from three watchdogs muzzled by the Harper government - Linda Keen, former head of the nuclear safety commission; Paul Kennedy, former head of the RCMP's public complaints commission; and Peter Tinsley, former military police complaints commissioner.

Keen, who was fired by the Tories, told Liberals that federal watchdogs are "under attack" by the government and that supposedly independent commissioners are afraid they'll lose their jobs if they take tough stands.


*** See, no country believes in freedoms without limits. It is indeed, the right of a country to do as it sees fit. I would add that for the French to put so much into this minor issue - considering the issues they have with Muslim citizens - is a waste of time. Focus on jobs - the veils will come off when a paycheque is at stake. ;) MS ***


PARIS -- A French parliament report called Tuesday for a ban on the full Islamic veil, saying Muslim women who wear the burka were posing an “unacceptable” challenge to French values.

After six months of hearings, a panel of 32 lawmakers recommended a ban on the face-covering veil in all schools, hospitals, public transport and government offices, the broadest move yet to restrict Muslim dress in France.

“The wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our republic. This is unacceptable,” the report said. “We must condemn this excess.”

The commission however stopped short of proposing broad legislation to outlaw the burka in the streets, in shopping centres and other public venues after raising doubts about the constitutionality of such a move.

“The wearing of the full veil is the tip of the iceberg,” said communist lawmaker Andre Gerin, the chair of the commission, who presented the report to the parliament speaker.

“There are scandalous practices hidden behind this veil,” said Mr. Gerin who vowed to fight the “gurus” he said were seeking to export a radical brand of fundamentalism and sectarianism to France.

Tensions flared at the last minute when a group of right-wing lawmakers pushed unsuccessfully for a tougher measure to ban the burka in all public venues.

In the end, the commission called on parliament to adopt a resolution stating that the all-encompassing veil was “contrary to the values of the republic” and proclaiming that “all of France is saying ‘no’ to the full veil”.

The National Assembly resolution would pave the way to legislation making it illegal for anyone to appear with their face covered at state-run institutions and in public transport, for reasons of security.

Women who turn up at any government building wearing the full veil would be denied services such as a work visa, residency papers or French citizenship, the report said.

The opposition Socialists refused to endorse the final report, to protest the government’s launching of a debate on national identity, which has exposed French fears about Islam.

Critics of the “burka debate” have warned that it risks stigmatizing France’s six million Muslims and describe the wearing of the garment as a marginal phenomenon affecting few women.

But President Nicolas Sarkozy sought Tuesday to reassure France’s estimated six million Muslims, saying in a speech at a cemetery for French Muslim soldiers that freedom to practise religion was enshrined in the constitution.

“Our country, which has known not only wars of religion but also fratricidal battles due to state anti-clericalism, cannot let French Muslim citizens be stigmatized,” he said at Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery in northern France.

An imam in Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris, who recently backed a ban on the full veil, calling it a “prison for women”, complained to police on Tuesday after around 80 people burst into his mosque and threatened him late on Monday.

The intruders seized the microphone in front of 200 worshippers and called the imam, Hassen Chalgoumi, an “infidel” before threatening to “liquidate” him, a councillor from the Conference of Imams, which Mr. Chalgoumi leads, told AFP.

Mr. Chalgoumi said he would not be intimdated by the threats, saying the intruders wanted “extremism and hatred” towards Christian and Jewish communities.

Despite a large Muslim presence, the sight of fully-veiled women is not common in France. Only 1,900 women wear the burka, according to the interior ministry.

Half of them live in the Paris region and 90% are under 40.

Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, France is being closely watched at a time of particular unease over Islam, three months after Swiss voters approved a ban on minarets.
Mr. Sarkozy set the tone for the debate in June when he declared the burka “not welcome” in France and described it as a symbol of women’s “subservience” that cannot be tolerated in a country that considers itself a human rights leader.

French support for a law banning the full veil is strong: a poll last week showed 57% are in favour.

The leader of Sarkozy’s right-wing party in parliament, Jean-Francois Cope, has already presented draft legislation that would make it illegal for anyone to cover their faces in public.

The bill is not expected to come up for debate before regional elections in March.

In 2004, France passed a law banning headscarves and any other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools after a long-running debate on how far it was willing to go to accommodate Islam in its strictly secular society.

Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria are also studying measures to ban the full veil.

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*** Using violence to bring about political change is indeed understood to be the very basis of the definition of terrorism. To assault a Minister makes it even more egregious. MS ***


OTTAWA—A Liberal MP says he believes the federal government should investigate whether the pieing of Fisheries Minister Gail Shea by a woman opposed to the seal hunt constitutes an act of terrorism.

Shea was delivering a speech Monday at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, when a woman stood up and pushed a tofu cream pie squarely into the minister’s face.

The animal-rights group PETA later took responsibility for the incident. It said in a release that it was part of its campaign “to stop the government’s ill-advised sanction of the slaughter of seals.”

MP Gerry Byrne says he thinks what happened should be reviewed under the legal definition of terrorism.

When someone actually coaches or conducts criminal behaviour to impose a political agenda on each and every other citizen of Canada, that does seem to me to meet the test of a terrorist organization,” the member from Newfoundland and Labrador said in an interview from Ottawa with radio station VOCM in St. John’s, N.L.

“I am calling on the Government of Canada to actually investigate whether or not this organization, PETA, is acting as a terrorist organization under the test that exists under Canadian law.”

A spokesman for PETA could not immediately be reached for comment.

Shea said afterward that the incident only strengthens her resolve to defend the hunt.

Emily McCoy, 37, of New York City was taken into custody and charged with assault after the pieing.

After the tofu cream pie was pushed squarely into the minister’s face, a woman started shouting as she was led away by officials.

“Shame on you Gail Shea. ... It is a shame on Canada. It is a shame that she has not denounced this bloody seal hunt,” the woman yelled.

Shea, who represents a P.E.I. riding, didn’t require medical attention and returned to the podium after wiping the pie from her face.

Former prime minister Jean Chretien was hit in the face with a pie by a protester in Prince Edward Island in 2000. His attacker initially was given jail time but eventually received a conditional sentence.

A woman who missed Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach with a pie at the annual Calgary Stampede breakfast in 2007, and hit a security official instead, was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

So was a woman who threw a pie at Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier in the summer of 2007.

In 2003, a protester who hit then-Alberta premier Ralph Klein in the face with a pie at the Stampede breakfast was convicted of assault and ordered to serve a 30-day intermittent jail sentence.

Jean Charest got it in April 2003, two days before his Liberals ousted the Parti Quebecois and he was elected Quebec premier.



TORONTO — Toronto 18 member found guilty in plot to bomb Canadian targets was used by police as a conduit to reach one of the homegrown terror group's leaders, his lawyer suggested Tuesday.

Shareef Abdelhaleem was often "just a body sitting there" during meetings with ringleader Zakaria Amara and a RCMP agent, said lawyer William Naylor, who has brought a motion to stay the case, arguing his client was entrapped.

Abdelhaleem was more or less a "pathway to find out what Amara was doing," Naylor told the court while cross-examining a RCMP officer who handled the police informant.

The informant, Shaher Elsohemy, was a former friend of Abdelhaleem, and Naylor suggested Elsohemy was instructed to get Abdelhaleem and Amara to meet to try to get information about the plot.

"I guess you felt because of their friendship that he'd tell everything he knew to Elsohemy," Naylor said.

The RCMP officer testified that Abdelhaleem discussed the plot at length with Amara and was privy to many of its details, and that was the reason Elsohemy was sent to him.

"Your client was the point of contact and he was involved in the conspiracy," the officer said.

Abdelhaleem was found guilty last week of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets, but the judge did not enter a conviction pending the outcome of the entrapment motion.

On Tuesday, Naylor questioned why Elsohemy was often instructed to contact Abdelhaleem and not simply asked to speak with Amara directly. He also suggested his client was only included in a plan to acquire and deliver the chemicals needed to make bombs because of Elsohemy's involvement in what was essentially, he said, a police-engineered situation.

"Abdelhaleem wasn't looking for any chemicals before he came in contact with Elsohemy," Naylor said.

But the officer repeatedly shot down his suggestions, insisting Abdelhaleem was a clear participant in the plot.

The RCMP-controlled delivery of the chemicals, the officer said, was "just one final investigative step."

Abdelhaleem and 17 others were arrested and charged with terrorism offences in 2006 and came to be known as the Toronto 18. The group plotted to detonate three one-tonne truck bombs at the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an unspecified Ontario military base.

Court began hearing evidence on the entrapment motion Monday with testimony from Elsohemy's handler at CSIS. Elsohemy had been in contact with CSIS for several months about Abdelhaleem as well as Amara -- who was sentenced to life in the plot -- before becoming an RCMP agent given a compensation package worth up to nearly $4 million.

The CSIS contact testified that Elsohemy's decision to give information about Abdelhaleem to the spy agency was in part motivated by the desire to do "exciting and meaningful work," but noted he also had a fractured relationship with Abdelhaleem.

The court has also heard that Abdelhaleem initially balked at the plan after hearing Amara lay it out, saying it was not correct under Islam. But he became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the stock exchange and also sought the advice of his father, Tariq Abdelhaleem.

His father issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, that such action would be acceptable, placating Abdelhaleem's moral objections, Elsohemy testified.

Monday, January 25, 2010


*** The RCMP has a serious problem with effective oversight, a foundation-stone of modern policing. Why? MS ***


OTTAWA -- The outgoing RCMP watchdog says there should be a major review of a little-known police power to break the law when trying to catch lawbreakers, which he describes as an authorization to "burn the barn" with immunity.

Paul Kennedy, the commissioner for public complaints against the RCMP, said that it would have been one of his top priorities during his tenure, but that he lacked the legislative power to get relevant information from the Mounties to conduct a probe.

"If I had an ability to do a general review, that is the first one I would put on the table to look at," said Mr. Kennedy, whose four-year stint ends on Dec. 31. "It's an unusual power, so you want to make sure it is being used appropriately."

Mr. Kennedy noted that the 2002 enabling legislation called for a parliamentary review three years after the law was passed, but "that still hasn't happened."

While the Mounties are required to report to Parliament annually on their law-breaking, Mr. Kennedy said the reports are "threadbare and uninformative" because the RCMP does not reveal any information about its informants or ongoing investigations.

"If I had access to all the information, we could look at that program, and be able to articulate publicly in a document without disclosing any great secrets, that this is a credible program," he said.

Despite Mr. Kennedy's top-secret clearance, the RCMP does not have to hand over information to him involving ongoing investigations or techniques, he said.

Mr. Kennedy has called repeatedly for Parliament to enhance the commissioner's powers to enable independent investigations into the national police force, including the ability to subpoena RCMP records. Also, investigations involving national security are shielded from public scrutiny.

The 2008 annual report on law-breaking activity, tabled recently in Parliament, indicated that the RCMP scaled back last year, revealing only two instances in which the Mounties authorized agents to break the law during criminal investigations.

One case involved bribery of a police officer and another was an investigation into human trafficking and prostitution. Both cases were carried out by civilian agents of the police, who are typically undercover informants, rather than the police themselves.

Authorizations were at their lowest since the RCMP acquired the power in 2002 to be shielded from prosecution in certain circumstances.

In one case, while an agent was authorized to commit a crime, it did not happen, said the report, tabled recently in theHouse of Commons.

While there were no reports of crimes committed by police themselves, that does not mean they did not happen. The law only requires them to report activity that would likely result in loss or serious damage to property.

The power has been contentious, opposed by such organizations as the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which have said that no one should be above the law.

RCMP authorizations for law breaking peaked in 2006, when police made 16 approvals, during investigations into alleged terrorism, counterfeiting, credit card fraud and passport forgery.

The legislation was passed almost eight years ago following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that said police did not have carte blanche to break the law in the line of duty, but left it open to Parliament to spell out some powers.

A mandatory review began in 2006, but the House of Commons justice committee concluded that further study was needed before making any recommendations.

During brief public hearings, there was no evidence the power was being abused, but the civil liberties association called for the law to be repealed, in part because of its vulnerability to abuse.

The law requires that RCMP justification for law breaking is subject to "reasonableness and proportionality" when compared to the crimes being investigated.

Certain types of conduct, such as intentionally causing bodily harm, violating the sexual integrity of a person and wilfully attempting to obstruct justice are excluded from the law-breaking powers.

The Canadian Bar Association has called in the past for police to go before a judge to obtain authorization, just as they would have to obtain a search warrant or permission for wiretapping.

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OTTAWA -- Liberals and Conservative senators are locked in a dispute about the pending release of a report that is deeply critical of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and calls for at least 5,000 new officers to help boost the national force.

The Liberal majority on the Senate national security committee, which is dissolved while Parliament is prorogued, is planning to make their report public early next month.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the longtime committee chairman, said the findings will be based on a draft committee report that was still in the works when the committee recessed in December.

Mr. Kenny is expected to be replaced by a Conservative chairman in the next Parliament, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints more Conservative senators to end the Liberal domination on committees.

Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin said it is "shocking" that the Liberals on the committee would publicize the contents of an unfinished report while Parliament is prorogued.

"That is a completely irresponsible and unprecedented thing to do," Ms. Wallin said. "These reports are confidential until everybody has signed off on them and we are in the middle of that."

Mr. Kenny countered that he and his colleagues are not releasing the committee's actual draft report, but a recrafted "position paper" of their own.

The Liberal report is expected to contain numerous recommendations, including a call for about 5,000 more officers over seven years and increased civilian oversight of the force -- an element of several other reports on the RCMP.

The position paper also touches on Taser use and another "big time" component deals with the force's often-criticized management structure, Mr. Kenny said.

"There are a lot of problems within the RCMP and our report comments on whether the right problems are being addressed," he said.

Ms. Wallin questioned the value of another report on the RCMP, which she said already has been studied to death. She said that the report to be released by Kenny and his colleagues is nothing more than a "Liberal press release."

The committee's last meeting in December, in which they discussed whether to approve a draft report they had worked on for three months, was an acrimonious gathering in which Conservative senators accused the Liberals of going out of their way to disparage the RCMP.

Ms. Wallin chastised the "offensive language" of the draft report, which she said amounted a "drive-by" smear of the Mounties.

"We did not like the tone, which assumed that every member of the RCMP engaged in the misuse of Tasers or engaged in some illegal behaviour," she said at the meeting.

"We did not want the RCMP to be side-swiped by concerns about problem members or issues that years ago were a problem and that the RCMP have been working on actively."

Conservative Senator Daniel Lang said that adding 5,000 RCMP officers would increase the existing complement by 25% and would cost taxpayers "in the neighbourhood" of $500 million.

"I am not saying there should not be increases, but I am also saying that I do not think we heard anything to that extent that should be done," said Mr. Lang, who asserted the report went "well beyond" what was discussed at committee hearings.

There have been several reports on the RCMPin recent years, including two reports in 2007 when the Conservative government commissioned special investigator David Brown to examine the force following revelations of a pension scandal. Mr. Brown made numerous recommendations on how to rebuild the force's "horribly broken" management and governance structure.

The Liberals in the Senate are not the only Grits planning to do business while Parliament is shut down -- Liberal MPs say they are also reporting to work Monday in protest, even though the doors do not officially open until March.



OTTAWA -The Harper government has appointed former Conservative organizer Ian McPhail as a new watchdog for the RCMP to muzzle criticism of the government's public safety policies, said the Opposition Liberals on Monday.

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland accused the government of replacing the former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, Paul Kennedy, because he was causing political headaches for the government with his scathing reviews in files such as the use of Tasers as well as internal investigation procedures.

"I think it's a way of covering up all of that criticism by putting in somebody who's very clearly a Conservative and doesn't have the job qualifications," Mr. Holland said in an interview.

A spokesman at the commission said that Mr. McPhail was just getting his feet wet as he started the new job.

The Liberals have argued that Mr. McPhail doesn't have any criminal law or policing experience to bring into the position and that he also donated close to $5,000 to the provincial Ontario Progressive Conservative party from 1995 to 2008.

"It certainly looks like patronage, and there could be no worse position to have somebody who's a crony than an independent watchdog."

But a government spokesman stressed that Mr. McPhail would be an interim chair over the next year to give the government a chance to search for a suitable candidate through a fair and open competition.

"All government appointments are based on merit and ability," said Christopher McCluskey, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Mr. McCluskey added that Mr. McPhail was a lawyer who demonstrated success in a diverse range of appointments, including acting as a chair of quasi-judicial bodies such as the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.



CHICAGO - A Canadian businessman accused of leading a double life as an international terrorist pleaded not guilty Monday to making plans for an attack on a Danish newspaper and helping arrange the rampage in 2008 that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 49, a Canadian national born in Pakistan who has been a Chicago resident for more than a dozen years, intends to fight the charges, attorney Patrick Blegen said after the arraignment.

"I am optimistic that we can fight these charges and clear Mr. Rana's name," Blegen told reporters.

He said he will keep up the fight, futile so far, to get his soft-spoken, grey-bearded client released on bond while awaiting trial.

Rana appeared in court guarded by husky marshals and wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner, with leg irons that rattled when they caught momentarily on the wheel of a chair.

He politely said good morning to Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys and spelled his name for the court reporter but said little else. If convicted, he could be sent to federal prison for the rest of his life.

Rana and co-defendant David Coleman Headley, 49, an American who went to school in Pakistan, are accused of laying the groundwork for the deadly November 2008 rampage by 10 terrorists who left a trail of carnage through Mumbai. Nine were eventually killed and the tenth person accused is now in custody.

Rana and Headley are also accused of planning an attack on the Jyllands Posten newspaper, which set off weeks of protests among Muslims after publishing 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. That attack never took place.

Prosecutors say that the alleged terrorist plans were tied to a Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar e Taiba (Army of the Pure) that has been in violent conflict with the government of India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Two other men, retired Pakistani military officer Rehman Abdur Hashim Syed and accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri, also are charged in connection with the planned attack on the Danish newspaper. Their whereabouts are unknown, although the indictment said Kashmiri has been in Pakistan's tribal areas, home to various terrorist groups.

Rana is specifically charged with two counts of conspiracy to provide aid to terrorism and one count of actually providing such support.

Headley, who is co-operating with federal prosecutors, faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the various charges against him. An American citizen who was born in this country but went to school in Pakistan, Headley is due to answer to the charges on Wednesday.

Blegen said at the arraignment Monday that Rana, who owns a downstate farm and an immigration service, cannot afford to pay for his defence. The attorney said he will ask U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, who is presiding over the case, to appoint him as Rana's government-paid counsel.

While Rana may have some money, "he doesn't have enough to fund the defence of a large, federal criminal case and virtually nobody does," Blegen told reporters later. He said such a trial could take months and cost a fortune.

Blegen said Rana "is a pleasant man" but is being held in an area of the Metropolitan Correctional Center reserved for troublemakers, confined "in a very small room almost 24 hours a day."

He said that Rana cannot move within the centre without "a three-man hold" - three correctional officers to guard him.

Rana has based his First World Immigration Service company and other businesses in Chicago for more than a dozen years.

Blegen called Rana a legitimate businessman who was duped by Headley and denies the charges against him.


*** Adding insult to the injury against the dignity of Canada as a law-abiding, open, fair and just society. MS ***

OTTAWA - Richard Colvin, the whistleblower-diplomat in the Afghan detainee issue, says he believes the Conservative government is retaliating for his damaging torture testimony late last year.

In a letter Monday to the Military Police Complaints Commission, Owen Rees, Colvin's Toronto lawyer, says his client has "a reasonable belief" that the government's refusal to pay his legal bills is a reprisal.

Rees says the government has essentially stopped paying Colvin's legal fees since November, when the diplomat told a House of Commons committee that several senior government officials were aware that Canadian Forces in Afghanistan were handing over detainees to be tortured by Afghan authorities in 2005 and 2006.

"Coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin and his testimony before the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan ... our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission," the letter says.

The latest Colvin development comes with Parliament suspended until March, leaving opposition MPs without their usual forum to tackle the issue. The opposition has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of proroguing Parliament to stifle the whole Afghan detainee issue.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Liberal and New Democrat MPs condemned the government's handling of Colvin's case.

"The denial of funds for legal counsel for Colvin is arbitrary and repugnant as is the shutting of Parliament,"said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.

"Denial of additional funds for legal counsel will prevent Colvin from testifying before MPCC; exactly the result Harper wants. It is obstruction of the work of MPCC."

Paul Dewar of the NDP said it's another effort to sweep the detainee issue aside.

"We now see the Conservatives retaliating against Mr. Colvin for doing his job. They're trying to bury the issues of Afghan detainees - but these actions only add to the perception that the government is engaged in coverup on the detainee file."

Colvin is entitled to legal representations as a federal civil servant who was summoned to testify about his work in Afghanistan. The government agreed to provide some funding for independent counsel after his original lawyer argued in the months prior to his testimony that the Justice Department could not represent parties on both sides of the dispute, given the risk of a conflict of interest.

But the Conservative government has not agreed to any additional funding despite the continuing Military Police Complaints Commission investigation. Colvin's testimony before the committee led to public attacks on his credibility by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and former top military generals.

Those attacks prompted Colvin to submit a 16-page letter to the MPCC in December defending himself and disputing their version of events.

On Nov. 27, about a week after his testimony, Colvin asked for additional legal funding but has yet to receive a reply.

"The government of Canada has failed to even respond to our client's request," Rees wrote. "This is a matter of grave concern for Mr. Colvin."

Without legal representation, Rees said, it would be difficult for Colvin to continue to testify before the commission.

"The government of Canada's inaction in this regard is impeding our client's ability to participate as a witness before the commission with the assistance of legal counsel, which is appropriate and necessary given the complexity of the legal issues raised, including the government's claims of national security confidentiality," he wrote.

Colvin set off a political storm in November when he told the parliamentary committee that Canada failed to monitor detainee conditions in Afghanistan when he was deputy ambassador there from April 2006 to October 2007. Detainees transferred by Canadian soldiers to Afghan prisons were likely tortured, he added.

"According to our information, the likelihood is that all the Afghans we handed over were tortured," Colvin said. "For interrogators in Kandahar, it was a standard operating procedure."

The government has denied Colvin's allegations.

"There are incredible holes in the story that have to be examined," MacKay told the Commons, rejecting calls for a public inquiry.



BRAMPTON, Ont. - A police agent who testified against a former friend found guilty of terrorism offences may have had motivations other than his principles, court heard Monday.

Shaher Elsohemy was the only witness in the first part of the trial of Shareef Abdelhaleem, who was found guilty last week of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets as part of the Toronto 18 terrorist group.

Though Abdelhaleem was found guilty he was not convicted, as the defence has brought forward a motion seeking to stay the case on the basis of entrapment. Court began hearing evidence in the entrapment motion Monday as defence lawyer William Naylor questioned Elsohemy's handler at CSIS.

Elsohemy had been in contact with CSIS for several months about Abdelhaleem before becoming an RCMP agent given a compensation package worth up to nearly $4 million.

Elsohemy's CSIS contact had written in a report that something more than just principles was behind Elsohemy giving information about Abdelhaleem to Canada's spy agency, court heard.

"(Elsohemy) does not forget an enemy easily," the CSIS contact wrote in his report.

"It appears that he does not brush old contacts or unresolved disputes under the carpet," the contact testified in court after Naylor asked for elaboration.

Elsohemy has testified that in exposing the plans of the failed terror attack he wasn't motivated by the money, but by a desire to be a moral, responsible Canadian citizen.

Court has previously heard Elsohemy and Abdelhaleem were friends until Abdelhaleem went to police after he suspected Elsohemy's brother of shattering the windshield of his BMW.

Elsohemy testified two weeks ago that Abdelhaleem was "aggressive" about the matter and that Elsohemy ended the friendship because Abdelhaleem was making increasing threats about the situation.

The contact's reports also suggested CSIS was interested in Elsohemy's friendship with Abdelhaleem because Abdelhaleem was close with Zakaria Amara, who was sentenced to life last week in the plot to bomb the CSIS building in Toronto, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base.

They began talking again after Abdelhaleem sent Elsohemy an instant message saying he was thinking about going "back home" - Abdelhaleem was born in Egypt - to do his "ultimate duty."

Shortly thereafter was when Elsohemy began talking to CSIS.

Court also heard that Elsohemy reported to the CSIS contact that Abdelhaleem refused to store explosives at his house and that he was at first opposed to bombing the Parliament buildings, saying he feared it "would do more harm than good for Muslims."

Elsohemy testified earlier that Abdelhaleem objected to the plot when it was revealed to them by Amara, but that Abdelhaleem became excited at the prospect of profiting from an attack on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The CSIS contact's report from March 23, 2006 quotes Elsohemy as saying he thought Abdelhaleem was "too addicted to creature comforts" to suffer or die for a cause, as he interpreted Abdelhaleem's "ultimate duty" comment to mean.

Naylor spent much time discussing a reference in the contact's notes that Elsohemy had fabricated a claim of mental distress against Air Canada, where he was on disability leave from as a flight attendant, and that he hoped to get a big disability payout.

When asked about the veracity of this statement, the contact replied that it wasn't important to him for security purposes, so he wouldn't have put much emphasis on the precise details of that situation in his report.

Abdelhaleem and 17 others were charged in June 2006 with terrorism offences. A youth was previously found guilty, five men have pleaded guilty, seven have had their charges dropped or stayed and four others are set to go on trial in March.



ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Monday western allies backed his plans to reconcile with Taliban fighters and U.S. generals said leaders of the insurgency eventually could be brought into talks.

General David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said the fighting would get harder before the situation improved, as the United States sends an extra 30,000 troops to break a stalemate in Afghanistan.

But both he and General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, held out the possibility of eventual talks with the Taliban leadership to end a war which is now into its ninth year.

While Karzai was working on a formal reintegration program for Taliban fighters -- expected to win backing at an international conference in London on Thursday -- talks could eventually be held with their leaders, Petraeus said.

"The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility," he told The Times newspaper.

McChrystal told the Financial Times he hoped increased troop levels would weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal and held out the possibility the Taliban eventually could help run the country.

"It's not my job to extend olive branches, but it is my job to help set conditions where people in the right positions can have options on the way forward," he said.

"I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past," he said when asked whether he would be content to see Taliban leaders in a future Afghan government.

The conference in London on Thursday is expected to agree a framework for the Afghan government to begin taking charge of security, in line with a timetable set by President Barack Obama to start drawing down U.S. troops in 2011.

Karzai, speaking after meeting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul, said Afghanistan had the backing of its allies, including the United States and Europe, for renewed efforts at reconciliation.


Attempts to win over Taliban fighters have met with only limited success in the past, but Karzai is hoping international funding will underpin a more formal reconciliation program.

The program, combined with extra troops, is meant to weaken the insurgency ahead of any eventual talks with its leaders.

Asked whether Pakistan was trying to persuade the Afghan Taliban to enter some kind of peace negotiations, Zardari said: "We have to talk about peace. If there are any people who are reconcilable, democracy always welcomes them back."

The Istanbul meeting was the latest in a series organized by Turkey to ease distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan has long played an important role in Afghan affairs, having nurtured the Afghan Taliban during the 1990s, but Kabul remains suspicious that Islamabad is pursuing its own agenda in the country to the detriment of Afghanistan.

In a sign of the potential significance of the meeting, the talks were being attended by military and intelligence officials from both countries, including the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

EU foreign ministers in Brussels also were meeting on Monday to coordinate their plans for Afghanistan, which British Foreign Secretary said had reached a decisive moment.

"The combination of a new Afghan government and a new focus of the international military and civilian efforts means that this is going to be a decisive period in the Afghan campaign.

"There's a new government in Kabul, there's a new military strategy, there's a new civilian surge ... it's very important that we get the political strategy right at this time."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for the conference in London late last year in the hope of galvanizing international efforts to secure Afghanistan. It is expected to be attended by ministers from some 60 countries.

On Tuesday, Turkey is hosting a meeting of Afghanistan's neighbors and near-neighbors -- which will include Miliband as well as ministers from China and Iran -- to seek a common approach to the conflict ahead of the London talks.

Sunday, January 24, 2010



KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban have embarked on a sophisticated information war, using modern media tools as well as some old-fashioned ones, to soften their image and win favor with local Afghans as they try to counter the Americans’ new campaign to win Afghan hearts and minds.

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith questions how much control the Taliban leadership has.
The Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, issued a lengthy directive late last spring outlining a new code of conduct for the Taliban. The dictates include bans on suicide bombings against civilians, burning down schools, or cutting off ears, lips and tongues.

The code, which has been spottily enforced, does not necessarily mean a gentler insurgency. Although the Taliban warned some civilians away before the assault on the heart of Kabul on Monday, they were still responsible for three-quarters of civilian casualties last year, according to the United Nations.

Now, as the Taliban deepen their presence in more of Afghanistan, they are in greater need of popular support and are recasting themselves increasingly as a local liberation movement, independent of Al Qaeda, capitalizing on the mounting frustration of Afghans with their own government and the presence of foreign troops. The effect has been to make them a more potent insurgency, some NATO officials said.

Afghan villagers and some NATO officials added that the code had begun to change the way some midlevel Taliban commanders and their followers behaved on the ground. A couple of the most brutal commanders have even been removed by Mullah Omar.

The Taliban’s public relations operation is also increasingly efficient at putting out its message and often works faster than NATO’s. “The Afghan adaptation to counterinsurgency makes them much more dangerous,” said a senior NATO intelligence official here. “Their overarching goals probably haven’t changed much since 2001, but when we arrived with a new counterinsurgency strategy, they responded with one of their own.”

The American strategy includes limiting airstrikes that killed Afghan civilians and concentrating troops closer to population centers so that Afghans will feel protected from the Taliban.

American and Afghan analysts see the Taliban’s effort as part of a broad initiative that employs every tool they can muster, including the Internet technology they once denounced as un-Islamic. Now they use word of mouth, messages to cellphones and Internet videos to get their message out.

“The Taliban are trying to win the favor of the people,” said Wahid Mujda, a former Taliban official who now tracks the insurgency on the Internet and frequently comments on Afghan television. “The reason they changed their tactics is that they want to prepare for a long-term fight, and for that they need support from the people; they need local sources of income,” he said. “So, they learned not to repeat their previous mistakes.”

The Taliban can shape the narrative about attacks sometimes before NATO public affairs even puts out a statement. Unlike the NATO press machine, the Taliban are willing to give details, and while some are patently exaggerated or wrong, others have just enough elements of truth that they cannot be entirely ignored.

Bruce Riedel, who led President Obama’s review of the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, described the information war as critical. “You have to respond in the propaganda war in a very quick time cycle; you can’t put out a statement saying, ‘We’re looking for all the facts before we comment,’ ”Mr. Riedel said.

The new public relations campaign combined with relatively less cruel behavior may have stemmed some of the anger at the insurgency, which tribal leaders in the south said had begun to rally people against the Taliban.

But the most important factor in their growing reach is the ineffectiveness of the central government and Afghans’ resentment of foreign troops. Military intelligence analysts now estimate that there are 25,000 to 30,000 committed Taliban fighters and perhaps as many as 500,000 others who would fight either for pay or if they felt attacked by the Western coalition.

The effort to change the Taliban’s image began in earnest last May when Mullah Omar disseminated his new code of conduct. The New York Times obtained a copy of the document through a Taliban spokesman. A version of the new code was authenticated last summer by NATO intelligence after a copy was seized during a raid and its contents corroborated using human intelligence, according to a senior NATO intelligence official.

The version sent to The Times is a 69-point document ranging from how to treat local people, how to treat prisoners, what to do with captured enemy equipment and when to execute captives. Much of the document deals with the Taliban chain of command and limits the decisions that field commanders can make on their own. The document exhorts insurgents to live and work in harmony with local people.

In an eerie echo of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the photographing of prisoners, one edict states: “If someone is sentenced to death, he must be killed with a gun, and photographing the execution is forbidden.”

Creating a code of behavior is one thing, enforcing it another. The Taliban have survived in part because they are an atomized movement and it is difficult to persuade local commanders, who operate in mountain or desert redoubts, to follow directives from leaders living hundreds of miles away in Pakistan.

There are doubts as well about the Taliban’s recent assertions that they are independent from Al Qaeda. Leaders of both groups live in the same areas of Pakistan, and Al Qaeda remains a source of financing and training for the Afghan movement.

“If you compare the document to actual behavior, Mullah Omar only has marginal control over his forces,” said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, the director of communications for NATO.

“A portion of it may stick in some parts of the country, but not in other places,” he said. Despite an edict that says in suicide attacks “to try your best to avoid killing local people,” a suicide bombing in Oruzgan Province last Thursday killed 16 civilians. But in most places, the civilian casualties from suicide bombers have been in the single digits. The Kabul attack on Monday killed five people, two of them civilians, and wounded 32.

That contrasts sharply with Pakistan, where the insurgency routinely fields suicide bombers who kill scores of civilians.

Admiral Smith and others say that according to a recent Defense Intelligence Agency survey, the Taliban’s new strategy has failed to win over Afghans and that even though the insurgency may be carrying out fewer mutilations and beheadings, it still relies on intimidation through night letters, threatening conversations and even assassinations.

Interviews with tribal elders in areas where the Taliban are active suggest a complex picture. Several interviewed in rural Kandahar Province praised the Taliban’s new, less threatening approach, but said that did not translate into enthusiasm for the Taliban movement. At the same time, there is not much liking for either the Afghan government or NATO troops.

“There is a tremendous change in the Taliban’s behavior,” said Haji-Khan Muhammad Khan, a tribal elder from Shawalikot, a rural district of Kandahar Province. “They don’t behead people or detain those they suspect of spying without an investigation. But sometimes they still make mistakes, people still fear them, but now generally they behave well with people. They had to change because the leadership of the Taliban did not want to lose the support of the grass roots.”

The latest refrain of Taliban commanders, their Internet magazine and from surrogates is that the insurgency represents Afghanistan’s Pashtuns, who are portrayed as persecuted by the Afghan government. “Pashtuns are suffering everywhere; if you go and check the prisons, you won’t find any prisoners except Pashtuns; when you hear about bombings, it is Pashtuns’ homes that have been bombed,” said a Taliban commander from Kandahar Province who goes by the name Sangar Yar.

While Pashtuns have been disproportionately affected by the Western military offensive, the insurgency is active predominantly in Pashtun areas where it is difficult to separate civilians and fighters.

At the moment, the dueling propaganda wars seem to have reached a stalemate.

People have no choices; they are in a dilemma,” said Abdul Rahman, a tribal elder and businessman in Kandahar. “In places where the Taliban are active, the people are compelled to support them, they are afraid of the Taliban. And, in those places where government has a presence, the people are supporting the government,” he said.


*** Burnt bodies of children in ransacked houses ... in the name of God or just plain greed? MS ***


Nearly 400 people have died in violence between Muslims and Christians in northern Nigeria.

Reports on Saturday said that about 150 bodies had been recovered from wells in Kuru Jantar, near the city of Jos, where clashes began last week before spreading to nearby villages.

Locals in Kuru Jantar, also known as Kuru Karama, told Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera's Africa editor, that a massacre had taken place in the village.

They said armed men had surrounded and attacked the village on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera saw the bodies recovered from wells, as well as the burnt bodies of children recovered from ransacked houses.

Up to 18,000 people in the area are thought to have been left homeless by the clashes in Nigeria's Plateau State.

Military presence

The violence abated after Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's vice-president, deployed the military to contain the situation.

Simmons reported that the military presence in Jos was extensive, but that it did not spread effectively into the countryside.

"The whole area is inundated, everywhere there are roadblocks"

Andrew Simmons, Al Jazeera's Africa editor

"The whole area is inundated, everywhere there are roadblocks and a curfew, which has been relaxed, is still fairly limiting ... the military have orders to shoot on sight after warning shots right the way through the night," he said.

"But many, many people are packing their bags and leaving [Jos]. They're going outside the control of the military and into the rural areas, which are virtually unprotected - as we saw in Kuru Jantar."

The military said it had arrested three people, all wearing military-style uniforms and in possession of a firearm. Two men were detained and one was released.

Political failure

Muslim leaders have told Human Rights Watch at least 364 people have been killed in the region in the last week, while the Christian death toll was still being compiled.

The state government has given no official death toll for the violence.

Jos and other central and northern areas in Nigeria have been plagued by religious violence in recent years.

There are conflicting reports about what triggered the violence. But some residents say the clashes started due to a dispute over the building of a mosque.

But Christian and Muslim leaders in Plateau State said previous bouts of unrest owed more to the failure of political leaders to address ethnic differences than to inter-faith rivalries.
'Intense rivalries'

Eric Guttschuss, a Nigeria researcher with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, said the violence is more than simply a religious dispute.

"You have these intense rivalries for limited natural resources," he told Al Jazeera.

"It's more to do with political and economic rivalries than have to do with religion. This is not a conflict over religious differences.

"It's rooted in a couple of issues, one being the discriminatory policies of local and state governments, discriminating against ethnic groups that are considered non indigents of the areas they live in.

"[It's also rooted in] government corruption that has continued to impoverish Nigeria."

Guttschuss said there is also a lack of political will on the part of the government to hold people accountable for the violence.

"The Nigerian citizens have to hold their government accountable and say 'Enough is enough, we've got to end this cycle of senseless violence'."



Monday, Jan 25, 2010, Page 7

A radical Muslim cleric who served time in a British jail for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred has returned by private jet to his native Jamaica after several unsuccessful attempts to deport him from Kenya.

Abdullah el-Faisal arrived in Kingston on Friday night on a jet paid for by the Kenyan government, traveling from Burkina Faso to Antigua via Cape Verde, authorities said.

Ken Baugh, Jamaica’s foreign affairs minister, said on Saturday he had no information about the cost of the flight or other details.

El-Faisal spoke briefly to reporters before he left in a minivan with two members of the local Muslim community.

“I’m traveling for two days and you want me to give you an interview?” he was quoted as saying in Saturday’s edition of the Jamaica Observer newspaper. “It was a very good flight. It was a private jet. I am very happy to be back home.”

It is unclear where el-Faisal will live in Jamaica. He previously lived in Spanish Town, just outside Kingston.

Deputy police chief Glenmore Hinds said police would maintain surveillance on him but did not provide specifics.

“We’ll be doing everything to ensure the safety of Jamaicans will not be compromised,” he said.

El-Faisal once led a London mosque attended by convicted terrorists and Britain has said that his teachings heavily influenced one of the bombers in the 2005 transport network attacks in London that killed 52 people.

In 2007, Britain deported him to Jamaica after he spent four years in jail for urging the killing of Americans, Hindus, Jews and Christians.

Last year, el-Faisal toured several African countries until he was arrested last month in Kenya. Muslim youth demanding his release staged a deadly protest on Jan. 15 at a downtown Nairobi mosque resulting in the arrest of 400 people. The Muslim Human Rights Forum said at least five people were killed when police shot at demonstrators, while the government says one person died.

Attempts to deport el-Faisal failed earlier this month when he was denied a transit visa when he arrived in Nigeria en route to Gambia, which had agreed to host him. He was then flown back to Kenya.

Britain, South Africa, Tanzania and the US earlier denied el-Faisal the transit visas he needed to return to Jamaica.

It was unclear on Saturday what country may have issued el-Faisal a transit visa.

Government officials in Burkina Faso did not return calls for comment. Authorities in Antigua said no one aboard a private plane is required to present paperwork if passengers do not disembark.