From the Ottawa Citizen: (photos there as well)
Two arrested in Ottawa after multiple raids in al Qaeda terror probe
OTTAWA — Police in Ottawa have arrested two men in connection with an alleged al-Qaeda-related terrorism plot, and initiated the search of a second property.
Police officers entered an apartment in a building at 220 Woodridge Cres. in the city’s Bayshore area. The person registered as living in apartment 702 is believed to be named Ahmed Ehsan. Little else is known about him at this time.
There were also indications that further police searches were taking place including across the Ottawa River in Gatineau.
The arrests occurred Wednesday at a house at 91 Esterlawn Pvt., near the intersection of Woodroffe and Carling avenues. Officers from the RCMP and Ottawa police raided the house at about 7 a.m.
The RCMP said in a press release that they were executing a number of search warrants and additional arrests are expected.
Anthony Seaboyer, head of the proliferation security research group at Queen’s University’s Centre for International Relations, called the arrests “a great success” for Canadian anti-terrorism forces.
“It shows that the RCMP, Ottawa police and CSIS can actually co-operate effectively,” Seaboyer said.
Given the scathing criticism of how security authorities handled the Air India bombing, “this is a good sign,” he said.
“Canada is moving more and more away from being a safe haven for terrorist organizations.”
On the other hand, Seaboyer said, “it shows what’s now going on out there. We have now found one group, but what else is out there?”
It’s impossible to know how many terrorism cells are active in Canada, Seaboyer said, but those arrested Wednesday are “definitely not the only group out there, that’s for sure.”
He said Canada is becoming more of a target for terrorists who want to use attacks on Canadian facilities, such as Quebec’s hydro-electric plants and transmission lines, to harm the United States.
“There are ways of attacking the U.S. through Canada. The whole energy for New York comes from Quebec, for example.”
A vehicle was removed during the search of 91 Esterlawn Private. The registered owner of the vehicle is Misbahuddin Ahmed, 36.
A search of court records involving Ahmed shows that he was arrested for speeding in March 2009 on the Ottawa River Parkweay. At the time he was living at 217-220 Woodridge Cres. RCMP were searching that address
in the Bayshore area of the city on Wednesday afternoon.
“He seemed like a nice young guy,” said Robert Farrell, who owns the home at 91 Esterlawn Private.
Ahmed works as an x-ray technician at the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, Farrell said, and lives in the home with his wife and their infant daughter of about six-months old.
“They seemed to be more of a traditional Muslim family.”
Farrell, a former Canadian diplomat who had been stationed in the Middle East, said he recalls Ahmed saying he was born in India but had lived for a time in Saudi Arabia.
“We met his wife at the time. She seemed quite nice.”
She wore an Iranian-style head covering, Farrell said.
Ahmed rented the home about a year ago, after responding to ad Farrell placed on an online rental site. Farrell said he carefully checked his tenant’s references in the application and called the hospital to verify.
“His immediate supervisor gave him a very high recommendation. She said he was a very stable and very steady and a reliable employee,” Farrell said.
“If I recall correctly, she said, ‘I wish all my employees were like him,’ or something like that.”
Farrell’s wife believes Ahmed had been living in Canada for several years and had previously lived in the Bayshore area.
He believes Ahmed as in his late 30s or early 40s.
The National Post reported the investigation involved an al-Qaeda plot and that the ringleader is believed to have trained in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region. The Post said the investigation involved a bomb plot, though it was not well-defined and the arrests were made today because one of the suspects was preparing to travel abroad.
Ottawa defence lawyer Samir Adam met for more than half an hour with one of the accused at Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street early Wednesday but had not been officially retained as counsel as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Adam would not disclose what the two discussed but said he expects the accused to appear in court on Thursday.
Police said they will release additional details about the investigation at a press conference on Thursday.
Neighbours say they saw police arrive at the house at 91 Esterlawn Pvt. before 7 a.m. Wednesday. At least five Ottawa police cars and one RCMP cruiser were parked on the street.
Neighbours say they saw several unmarked police cars in the area. They described the residents of the house as devout Muslims.
Around 10 a.m., an officer emerged from the home with a camera.
Police hauled several computer hard drives out of 91 Esterlawn around 2:15 p.m. Another officer brought out what appeared to be a scanner.
Janice Burtt, a neighbour, said she only knew the man and woman who lived in the house to see them on the street.
She would wave to her neighbours, but they never responded.
“I don’t think they gestured to me at all,” Burtt said. “People keep to themselves, so that seemed nothing too out of the ordinary.”
Burtt said the people who live at 91 Esterlawn are quiet and keep to themselves. She would sometimes see them sitting on the front porch of their house.
Burtt said this type of police activity is unusual in the condo complex.
“Very quiet, very unassuming, very gentle,” Burtt said. “Nobody out of the ordinary that I’m aware of.”
Neighbours say the couple likely rented the condo.
Louise, who lives next door to the suspect and would not give her last name, said she saw several RCMP and Ottawa police cars on the street when she got the paper from her front porch early Wednesday morning.
She said the woman who lived in the house wore a full burqa. She often heard the couple chanting some kind of prayer in the morning.
“It’s quite scary, actually,” Louise said. “We are trying to process all of that. It’s quite the surprise.”
Debbie Rapoch, another neighbour, said she saw two women dressed in full burqas leave the home and walk down the street. She said at least one was carrying a car seat, but a child wasn’t anywhere to be seen. A person picked up the women in a car and drove off.