The National Post also broke the phony Iranian yellow-badges story, of course. If this one blows up in their face, they’re completely finished as a credible news source.
But for the moment, they’ve got the benefit of the doubt:
A Canadian counter-terrorism investigation that led to the arrests of 17 people accused of plotting bombings in Ontario is linked to probes in a half-dozen countries, the National Post has learned.
Well before police tactical teams began their sweeps around Toronto on Friday, at least 18 related arrests had already taken place in Canada, the United States, Britain, Bosnia, Denmark, Sweden, and Bangladesh.
The six-month RCMP investigation, called Project OSage, is one of several overlapping probes that include an FBI case called Operation Northern Exposure and a British probe known as Operation Mazhar.
In the last post, I scoffed at the idea that today’s arrests might be linked to the arrests yesterday in London. Consider this me eating crow.
Assuming it turns out to be true.
Update: Dan Riehl follows the ammonium nitrate.
Update: The Canadian Press talks to the neighbors:
Attique operated an Islamic bookstore from the home, but neighbours drew up a petition last year calling for the business to be shut down because it was being operated in a residential neighbourhood…
Grenier said residents of the home kept to themselves, but he noticed unusual activity in the early morning hours.
“You never see them during the day, always deliveries late at night, early in the morning,” said Grenier, a Toronto Transit Commission employee. “I get home at about 2:30, 3 o’clock (in the morning) and you always see people coming in and out, but you just assume it’s books coming out.”
And here’s another neighbor, perhaps providing a clue as to why the RCMP felt they had to act now:
Tony Sbrocchi, 38, a neighbourhood resident for 10 years said he saw individuals backing a U-Haul into the driveway of the residence and loading up the vehicle on Monday, and that a group of three unfamiliar males left the next morning.
“It was very suspicious,” Sbrocchi said, adding that he was unsure of what was being loading into the truck.
Update: Almost certainly unrelated to the events in Canada, but worth noting: an FBI search of a home in Tennessee yesterday revealed three pipe bombs — and a jar of ricin.
Update: Late-evening news from the Toronto Star: the RCMP says it had to “move quickly” to make the arrests before the group launched their attack.
Update: Have some of these suspects been in Canadian custody before? Kate from Small Dead Animals says maybe.
Update: The L.A. Times fleshes out the National Post story:
Several U.S. counterterrorism officials said they have ongoing investigations that have involved close cooperation among authorities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and at least several other countries since last September…
Authorities have not yet found any connection between the suspects in Canada and Atlanta and several men arrested earlier in the week in the United Kingdom on terrorism charges, the law enforcement official said…
Authorities have, however, have found [sic] connections between the suspects in Canada and Atlanta and other suspected terror operatives abroad, including a group of men arrested in London last fall that includes an infamous computer specialist known as Irhabi007, the law enforcement official said. Irhabi means terrorist in Arabic.
Some of those discussions focused specifically on attacking targets in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., areas, the law enforcement official said. “The discussions were wide-ranging, about a whole range of targets,” he said.
None of the plots were imminent, authorities said.
U.S. prosecutors recently told a federal judge they have evidence that Sadequee and Ahmed (the two men from Atlanta who rendezvoused with the Canadian jihadis in March) videotaped the U.S. Capitol and the World Bank, among other locations in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, the New York Times says it’s unclear whether the Canadian suspects already had the ammonium nitrate in their possession or whether it was being delivered this week. If the latter, it would certainly explain why the RCMP thought they had to move in.
Counterterrorism officials said that interviews with suspects would provide greater clarity about the nature of the plot, but they said that the men had taken a significant step, moving beyond the planning stage, toward acquiring a large quantity of potentially explosive fertilizer.
It was not clear whether the group ever had possession of the chemicals, or whether authorities may have had a role in arranging for the shipment or transporting the material.
A police spokeswoman, Cpl. Michele Paradis, asked whether the group had actually had the three tons of chemicals in their possession, and if the police had “seized” it, replied: “That’s difficult to answer. They made arrangements to have it delivered and they took delivery.”
The Times notes that there’s no evidence to think the suspects were looking southward, but it does say that American counterterrorism officials have had “extensive contact” with their Canadian counterparts over the last several days.
The recent discovery of a transnational terrorist network anchored in Sarajevo—and with branches in Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom—is further evidence of the extent to which the jihad in Bosnia still influences Western European mujahideen networks. Last fall, Bosnian authorities announced a series of arrests in connection with a security sweep known as Operation Mazhar. The men taken into custody had purchased explosives and allegedly planned to carry out suicide attacks against Western targets across Europe. The leader of the cell, Swedish national Mirsad Bektasevic (a.k.a. “Maximus”) was initially based in Sweden and then traveled on to Bosnia “to plan an attack aimed at forcing Bosnia or another government to withdraw forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.”…
Mobile phone records also showed that Bektasevic was communicating with other known extremists based in Denmark and the United Kingdom. He was also believed to be running a recruitment operation sending young European jihadi recruits on to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Moreover, at least one of the suspects arrested in Bosnia-Herzegovina in connection with the Bektasevic network was the former accountant of a financial front company run by veterans of the El-Mudzahedin Unit in Sarajevo and Zenica.
Dan’s post has more background, including a quote from a top British official calling this the first “virtual [terror] network.”