Canada A Hotbed For Terrorists

Vehicles line up to enter the United States from Canada at the Peach Arch border crossing in Blaine, Wash., Monday, Feb. 16, 2004. The crossing was closed in both directions for about an hour Monday when a car entering Canada allegedly had explosives aboard. Traffic was directed toward the nearby Blaine Truck Crossing following the brief closure. It is one of four international border crossings in Whatcom County.
Though many view Canada as an unassuming neutral nation that has skirted terrorist attacks, it has suffered its share of aggression, and intelligence officials believe at least 50 terror groups now have some presence here.

They are from Sri Lanka, Kurdistan and points between and include supporters of some of the best-known Mideast groups, including al Qaeda, authorities say.

Osama bin Laden named Canada one of five so-called Christian nations that should be targeted for acts of terror. The others, reaffirmed last year by his al Qaeda network, were the United States, Britain, Spain and Australia.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, counterpart of the CIA, said terrorist representatives are actively raising money, procuring weapons, "manipulating immigrant communities" and facilitating travel to and from the United States and other countries.

Besides al Qaeda, those groups include Islamic Jihad; Hezbollah and other Shiite groups; Hamas, the Palestinian Force 17, Egyptian Al Jihad and various other Sunni groups from across the Middle East, CSIS said.

CSIS said the Irish Republican Army, Tamil Tigers and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and major Sikh terrorist groups also have supporters in Canada.

The Air India bombing of 1985 was the deadliest terrorist attack on a commercial airliner prior to Sept. 11, with the government accusing Sikh terrorists living legally in Canada of taking down the airliner over Ireland, claiming 331 lives, most Canadian.

The separatist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka - whose followers helped start the trend in suicide bombings when they assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 - have their political headquarters in a Toronto suburb.

Canada's clandestine Communications Security Establishment, which listens in on conversations and translates messages from foreigners under suspicion, has increased its annual budget by 57 percent since Sept. 11, and Canada has spent some $6.5 billion to beef up security along its border.