Imitating Sept. 11 And Madrid?

Items seized by police are shown on display during a press conference in Toronto, Saturday, June 3, 2006. Canadian authorities said Saturday they had foiled plans for terrorist attacks in southern Ontario with the arrests of people who were "inspired by al Qaeda." AP Photo

By CBS News Investigative Unit producer Phil Hirschkorn.

Authorities say the 17 men accused of plotting homegrown terrorist attacks on the Canadian government contemplated using an airplane as a weapon, like the Sept. 11 hijackers, and possessed detonators that could trigger bombs by a cell phone, a technique employed by the Madrid train bombers in 2004.

These chilling details alleged by Canadian investigators are contained in the complete eight-page charging document submitted to the Canadian court this week. The document, which paints the fullest picture yet of the alleged terrorist conspiracy, has not been made public but has been reviewed by CBS News.

The document describes the changing targets the suspects allegedly considered and their paramilitary activities in an improvised training camp north of Toronto. It also clarifies the links between the Canadian suspects and two men detained in the United States for their alleged terrorist schemes.

As prosecutors lay out the chronology, investigators used a combination of communication intercepts, physical surveillance, and undercover operations to foil the plot.

Canadian prosecutors allege suspects Fahim Ahmad, 21, and Zakaria Amara, 20, were the ringleaders who quoted al Qaeda's statements admonishing followers to seek out "big targets" in the U.S. and Canada. Their homegrown plot would be called "Operation Badr," a name likely derived from the seventh-century battle won by Muslim fighters.

Authorities say at first, their ire focused on the gothic Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa — taking politicians hostage and demanding Canadian troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Muslim prisoners freed from Canadian jails. The court document also says the plan called for beheading hostages "one by one at specified times" until their demands were met.

Other targets initially discussed, authorities say, were the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency offices in Ottawa and Toronto and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters in Ottawa. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation headquarters in Toronto and military bases are also said to have been on the list.

More striking is the allegation that plotters considered using an airplane as a weapon, though exactly what kind of plane and how it would be used is not indicated. The document does say suspect Amin Durrani, 19, enrolled in flight training at Centennial College but withdrew so as not to draw attention to himself.

Last November, Ahmad allegedly dispatched Amara to find an "isolated location for future training of the group," according to the document. Amara allegedly chose a forested area in a town called Washago, about a two-hour drive north of Toronto.

By consulting with a ministry of natural resources office and a police detachment in the area, however, Amara, provoked police surveillance. Prosecutors say officers observed the site continuously during the week before last Christmas when at least nine of the adult men charged and four the five youths arrested, whose names appear in the document, attended the camp. Two of those youth allegedly shoplifted walkie-talkies for the group.

In addition to Ahmad, Amara, and Durrani, suspects Asad Ansari, 21, Qayyum Jamal, 43, Jahmaal James, 23, Steven Chand, 25, Ahmad Ghany, 21, and Saad Khalid, 19, "took part in training that was clearly for terrorist purposes," according to the document.

They allegedly wore camouflage clothing, fired a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol and a pellet gun, played paintball, engaged in marches and winter survival training, and rotated as 24/7 sentries. Police and neighbors heard the practice gunshots, and police later found spent ammunition casings on the grounds.

The Muslim fighters allegedly used photographs of Hindu gods as targets and Ahmad made speeches to the group as it discussed attack scenarios. Prosecutors say the group watched jihadist videos and made a video of their own, documenting their actions — in part, to recruit more conspirators and raise money. Police later found the incriminating video on a CD in Amara's house. Ansari, said to be the least adept at the drills, is said to have been valued for his computer skills and was the one who recorded the video.

  • Sean Alfano

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