‘A grenade launcher in every house’

Khadr says “basic weapons training, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and how to detonate explosives, were part of the “Muslim culture”

A 2005 file photo of Abdullah Khadr and his mother Maha Elsamnah Khadr

A 2005 file photo of Abdullah Khadr and his mother Maha Elsamnah Khadr

Toronto Star… An Ontario court heard this morning about how Abdullah Khadr, who is fighting extradition to the United States on terrorism charges, attended a training camp as a teenager where he learned to use a rocket launcher and detonate explosive material.

The 28-year-old member of the infamous Khadr family took the stand for the first time to testify in his own defence, recounting his years spent living in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Crown Howard Piafsky tried to link Khadr to his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, a reputed Canadian Al Qaeda financier and friend of Osama bin Laden. The patriarch moved his family overseas to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was involved in charitable projects.

Khadr, who admitted having a close relationship with his father before he was killed by Pakistani forces in 2003, denied any knowledge of his father’s ideologies. He also told Superior Court Justice Christopher Speyer that he had no knowledge about allegations that his father diverted funds from charitable projects toward Al Qaeda.

When testifying about a three-month camp he attended when he was about 13 or 14, Khadr explained that learning about basic weapons training, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and how to detonate explosives, were part of the “Muslim culture” and part of growing up in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan is not Canada, it’s a country that’s been going through war,” said the Canadian-born Khadr, who grew up moving between Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“When you go fishing, you fish with a bomb, you don’t fish with a fishing rod.”

Learning how to use a grenade or rocket launcher is part of growing up there, he said, adding, “if you live in Afghanistan or Pakistan, a grenade launcher is in every house… It’s something everyone has.”

Khadr said it was his father who sent him to the camp and that, to his knowledge, it was not operated by Al Qaeda.

Khadr downplayed his father’s friendship with Osama bin Laden and said he did not know if his father was a “trusted senior associate of Al Qaeda,” as suggested by Piafsky during his cross-examination.

Court also heard that when Khadr’s sister returned to Canada, a hard drive was seized by police, which was shown to have belonged to her father.

On it was a 1,300-page handwritten manual that included instructions for making bombs, as well as letters with Osama bin Laden’s signature stamp, said Piafsky.

Also seized were 16 cassette tapes featuring interviews between the father and Afghan fighters, which were conducted in 2001 and 2002.

The U.S. has requested Khadr’s extradition to face charges of buying weapons for Al Qaeda and plotting to kill American troops in Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces a life sentence and a fine of $1 million US.

Defence lawyer Dennis Edney has argued that any information his client gave authorities, in Pakistan or in Canada, is tainted because he was allegedly tortured.

According to an affidavit signed by Khadr, he was arrested by Islamabad police in mid-October, 2004 and taken to a detention centre, where he was beaten with a hard rubber paddle or stick.

Among the allegations made by Khadr in the affidavit is that Pakistani officials beat him and penetrated him with a stick.

Khadr alleges Pakistani officials tortured him during the 14 months he was held without charge — a period when Canadian and U.S. officials also interviewed him about his family and his knowledge of Al Qaeda.

According to Khadr, the Americans never tortured him during questioning. But, he says, if they were not satisfied with his answers they would leave it to the Pakistani captors to elicit a different response, most often through torture.

In the affidavit, Khadr says he told the Americans what they wanted to hear, while trying to minimize his involvement, because he wanted the abuse to stop and wanted to leave the Pakistani jail.

According to documents filed with U.S. authorities, the Americans never asked Pakistani officials to question Khadr on their behalf, nor did they ever see any evidence of mistreatment.

Khadr returned to Canada in December 2005 and met with RCMP officials in Toronto and again confessed to purchasing weapons for Al Qaeda. He was arrested days later at the request of U.S. authorities and was indicted by a Boston court in February 2006.

The extradition hearing is expected to last about three weeks.

He is the brother of Omar Khadr who is charged with killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and who is being held in the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

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