August 28, 2003

THIS STORY ABOUT A CANADIAN AL QAEDA CELL hasn’t gotten as much attention as I’d expect:

TORONTO – Suspected members of a Canadian al-Qaeda sleeper cell who may have tested explosives and plotted attacks were told yesterday they will have to remain in custody for at least another month.

Immigration judges ruled there were sufficient grounds to hold the Pakistani men while counter-terrorism investigators examine 25 boxes of documents and 30 computers seized during recent raids. . . .

Members of the group were caught at the Pickering Nuclear Power plant at night, while another flew over the reactor while training at a flight school in Durham. Other members were linked to the theft of radioactive material and one had ties to a fundraising front for al-Qaeda.

Documents seized from their apartments suggested they may have been scouting Canadian landmarks such as Toronto’s CN Tower and law courts, as well as buildings in the United States.

It’s especially interesting in light of this information:

TORONTO — Several of the 19 men being probed as a possible al-Qaeda sleeper cell moved between Ontario and the United States — a fact not lost on U.S. investigators. . . .

At a detention hearing last Wednesday, a government lawyer went so far as to note that some of the men were on American soil at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., according to a hearing transcript.

Of course, about 300 million other people were in the United States on September 11. But these guys appear to have Al Qaeda connections. This would seem like bigger news to me.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Brophey sends this story, which casts some (though it’s not clear just how much) doubt on what is going on.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Meanwhile, this editorial from the National Post suggests that Canada still isn’t taking terrorism seriously enough.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Bruce Rolston of Flit thinks this is overblown.