*** Too bad that 4 years had to pass - and for a false narrative to have taken hold by armchair pundits who pronounced verdicts even before the trial began! NOW - 4 years later - the public will start to hear more of what they should have been given the first time: the truth. MS ***
Toronto 18 details emerge as jury sequestered
What the jury didn't get to hear about Fahim Ahmad
A jury in Brampton, Ont., has started to deliberate in the latest trial for those accused in the Toronto 18 extremist plot case.
The jurors were sequestered Friday after the judge finished instructing them in the case presented against the two accused, Steven Chand and Asad Ansari. Both were charged with participating in a terrorist group, and Chand faces a further charge of counselling to commit fraud over $5,000 for the benefit of a terrorist group.
Until the moment the jury went out, a sweeping publication ban had prevented media from reporting any details of the case other than what was said in the courtroom in this trial. That included any details of past convictions and evidence in previous Toronto 18 trials.
One of the names that came up repeatedly in past trials was that of the self-acknowledged leader of the group, Fahim Ahmad. Admad was to have been tried along with Chand and Ansari on charges of participating in a terrorist group, instructing people to carry out activities for a terrorist group and a weapons offence.
But on May 10, he made a surprise about-turn. In the middle of his trial on terrorism charges he abruptly reversed himself and pleaded guilty. What the five-woman, seven-man jury had heard about Ahmad to that point was hair-raising enough.
Untold details of plot
In hundreds of hours of taped phone intercepts and secretly recorded conversations with police mole Mubin Sheik, Ahmad spoke enthusiastically of building an arsenal of high-powered weapons, including AK-47s and M-16s, and of attacking Canadian targets such as the Pickering nuclear power plant in Ontario and storming Parliament in Ottawa to "cut off some heads."
What the jury and the Canadian public didn't hear about was the story of Ahmad's ties to international terrorism.
Before turning his attention to building a Canadian al-Qaeda style terrorist cell, Ahmad was plotting acts of terrorism with alienated young Muslim men like himself in the United States, the United Kingdom and perhaps beyond.
One of those young men was Aabid Khan, who was an al-Qaeda supporter and recruiter living in Bradford, England. According to British security analyst Sajan Gohel, Khan was no foot solider, he was a plotter who put together terrorism cells on the internet.
Khan was arrested by British anti-terrorism police at Manchester International Airport on June 6, 2006, just four days after the RCMP busted the Toronto 18.
Khan was returning from one of his frequent trips to Pakistan. On his laptop computer and on 53 harddrives found at his home, police discovered what a British prosecutor later referred to as a library of violent Jihadi videos and Islamist propaganda tracts. Amongst the videos police discovered was an edited two-minute feature shot at a Canadian winter indoctrination and military training camp organized by Ahmad and by Toronto 18 co-leader Zakaria Amara at Washego, Ont.
U.K. police also found hundreds of hours of saved chats between Khan, Ahmad and other members of the Toronto 18.
Met in a chat room
Ahmad first met Kahn in 2003 in an internet chat room called Clear Guidance. The site was frequented by angry, young Muslim men — and by 2004 Ahmad had posted over 700 messages.
Other Clear Guidance members included Yanous Tsouli. The internet moniker Tsouli chose to give himself was Irhabi 007. Irhabi is Arabic for terrorist. The reference to 007 is an allusion to the fictional, over-sexed British secret agent James Bond.
Tsouli was the son of a Moroccan diplomat living in east London. Tsouli was an internet genius with close ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq. When a London SWAT team burst into his apartment on Oct. 21, 2005, to arrest him he was building a new website called YouBombit.com. The website was a do-it-yourself guide for wannabe terrorists that featured bomb-making recipes and instructions on how to make suicide vests.
Amongst the videos Tsouli planned to put up on the website were what the FBI alleges were surveillance videos of possible targets in Washington, D.C. The videos were shot by two of Fahim Ahmad's associates from Atlanta.
Ehasnul Islam Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed were also Clear Guidance regulars. In March 2005, Sadequee and Haris Ahmed travelled to Toronto to visit Fahim Ahmad and his growing band of recruits.
Over the next week, the young men talked about potential targets and the need to get paramilitary training in Pakistan. In transcripts of internet chats introduced at his trial at Blackfriars Court in London, England, Aaabid Khan told Fahim Ahmad he could arrange to get them paramilitary training with Lashkar Tayiba, the group behind the Mumbai attacks.
Aabid Khan was also in Toronto that week. At his trial, Khan insisted he had come to marry Fahim Ahmad's sister-in-law, a 19-year-old woman named Saima Mohamed, not to plot terrorism. Saima was also committed to the Jihadist cause.
In transcripts of internet chats included in the evidence at Khan's trial, Saima Mohamed tells him of her desire to become a suicide commando. In a written letter she tells him: "The more I think about my goal in life, the more vivid my goals become. Whether it's exploding prisons or freeing Muslim prisoners … Let it be a martyrdom operation."
She tells Khan that although her sister Mariyam disapproves of her ambition to become a martyr, Fahim has given her his approval. Mohamed was never arrested. She declined several interview requests from CBC News but in a letter from her lawyer Faizel Kutty, he stated that she does not espouse violent views. He also reminded the CBC being young can be a difficult and confusing period.
Aabid Khan and Fahim Ahmad's plan was to rent basements apartments in Toronto where their most-committed internet recruits could live for a month and bond before leaving for Pakistan to get paramilitary training with Lashkar.
After training they would return to Toronto, choose targets and then disperse to stage spectacular acts of terrorism in at least four countries. But as Ahmad was out searching for cheap apartments to rent, the plan began to fall apart.
Ahmad began to grow impatient with Khan, who wanted to move slowly. Ahmad also had trouble getting his hands on the $5,000 he calculated he would need to go to Pakistan. After splitting with Khan, Ahmad and his friend Zakaria Amara turned their attention to Canada and building an al-Qaeda type cell in Toronto.
In August 2008, Aabid Khan was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In 2007, another Clear Guidance regular, Mersad Bektasavic, received a 15 year, four-month sentence from a Bosnian court for plotting an attack in Europe. When Bektasevic was arrested, police found a suicide vest and 18 kilograms of factory-made explosive in his apartment.
In June 2009, American Syed Haris Ahmed was found guilty of material support for terrorism in the U.S. and sentenced to 12 years. Later that year, his friend Ehsenul Mohamed Sadequee was found guilty on four terrorism charges and sentenced to 17 years followed by 30 years of supervision. In the indictments of both men, Fahim Ahmad is named as a co-conspirator.
Fahim Ahmad has pleaded guilty to four charges. He is facing a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. As a result of his guilty plea, the jury is no longer involved in Ahmad's case. He will be sentenced in Federal Court in Brampton, Ont., by Justice Fletcher Dawson later this summer.