Al-Qaeda inspired groups still active in Canada: report

0603pic7The National Post… A secret government list of the country’s top terrorist threats says al-Qaeda-inspired extremists remain active in Canada and are willing and able to carry out attacks.

“AQ’s Islamist extremist ideology continues to inspire individuals in Canada,” says the classified Intelligence Assessment. “AQ-inspired groups and individuals present a threat of terrorist attack in Canada.”

The report indicates that, long after police arrested 18 suspects around Toronto for allegedly plotting “al-Qaeda-inspired” shootings and bombings, such extremists remain a central security concern.

Three terrorist groups are named in the report, titled “Canada: Bi-Annual Update on the Threat from Terrorists and Extremists.” Dated last November, the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre report was only recently released under the Access to Information Act.

Aside from al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda inspired groups, the document names Hezbollah and notes its leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to avenge last year’s assassination of its military chief Imad Mugniyah. But the report says Hezbollah “has never attacked a target in Canada” and that “Hezbollah in Canada is primarily structured for fundraising.”

The report takes a similar view of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a now-defunct Sri Lankan rebel group known for its campaign of assassinations and suicide bombings. “LTTE activities in Canada typically involve fundraising, as well as propaganda directed at the Canadian Tamil population,” says the report.

Sikh extremist activity was assessed as “minimal in recent years,” while separatism “provides an undercurrent of tension in various regions of Canada, most prominently in Quebec.”

Also identified as threats: aboriginal extremists; lone wolves; and multi-issue extremists (MIEs), a broad category that encompasses the fringes of the animal rights, anti-globalization, environmental and anti-U.S. foreign policy movements.

“AQ-inspired groups, MIEs, and aboriginal extremists have demonstrated both the intent and capability to target critical infrastructure in Canada, although no incidents involving these groups have occurred during the reporting period,” it says.

Since 9/11, counterterrorism officials have ranked al-Qaeda and its followers as Canada’s most worrisome terror threat because of the group’s pattern of mass-casualty attacks against civilians.

Of particular concern are homegrown extremists who are citizens or residents of Canada but have adopted the al-Qaeda mindset, consider Canada a legitimate terrorist target and may travel to countries such as Pakistan for paramilitary and explosives training.

On Tuesday, the Federal Court gave Canada’s intelligence service approval to listen to the communications of Canadian terror suspects – even when they are abroad.

The court approved a warrant allowing Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers to eavesdrop on two Canadians who travelled to an undisclosed foreign country this year.

Justice Richard Mosley said CSIS could do so because, even though the targets of the investigation were overseas, their communications were to be collected within Canada.

The 41-page ruling clarifies the powers of CSIS to investigate terror suspects who have left Canada to train, meet co-conspirators or participate in foreign conflicts.

Previously, the Federal Court had refused to issue warrants to CSIS to investigate terrorists overseas, saying the court lacked the jurisdiction outside Canada’s borders.

But Judge Mosley said the circumstances in this case were different because the interception of the communications – presumably phone calls and Internet exchanges – was to occur in Canada.

CSIS had told the court it intended to enlist the Ottawa-based Communications Security Establishment, the government’s electronic eavesdropping agency, to intercept the conversations from listening posts inside Canada.

“The ruling is important because it recognizes that security threats are global and highly mobile,” said Manon Berube, the CSIS spokeswoman. “In our view this decision recognizes that security threats move easily from one country to another and that countering those threats requires a new approach.”

The ruling contains few details of the investigation but says CSIS asked for the warrant on Jan. 24 “in respect of newly identified threat-related activities.” The court granted the warrant at the time, although a declassified version of the ruling has only now been released.

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