- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

LONDON Canada yesterday announced a total ban on Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based radical Islamic movement, which is believed by security services to have made the country a major base for fund raising through a car-theft ring and other illegal activities.
A former chief of the country's intelligence service said last night that security officials also feared the group would use its operations in Canada as a base for infiltration into the United States.
"Canada was for them a springboard for collecting money and planning operations," said Reid Morden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in a telephone interview.
"Until recently, the operations of a number of these groups had been directed at things which would take place back home. But the security services became concerned that actions could take place across the border."
He noted that Canada has been used as a base by terrorists, including Ahmed Ressam, who in December 1999 was stopped at the U.S. border trying to cross from Vancouver with bomb kits in the trunk of a rental car.
The government released no details of Hezbollah actions in Canada to support its decision to proscribe the group. Until recently, Foreign Minister Bill Graham had been talking of the need for "dialogue" with Hezbollah, which holds seats in the Lebanese parliament.
But Solicitor General Wayne Easter told the Canadian Parliament during a heated debate on Monday that his government took such action "only on the basis of sound criminal and security intelligence information."
Hezbollah was left off the list when the Palestinian radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, along with a few smaller groups, were banned less than a month ago under legislation passed after the September 11 attacks.
Pressure on the government to reconsider its decision increased after Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was quoted in The Washington Times and elsewhere early this month encouraging Palestinians to conduct suicide bombings worldwide.
Conservative opposition parties also had ridiculed the government's attempts to distinguish between Hezbollah's military and its other activities, which include extensive social and welfare work in Lebanon.
Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Canadian Alliance party, said in a telephone interview that Hezbollah posed a threat to Canadians and Americans.
"Once a terrorist network can operate in one country, it is easier to infiltrate into others. In our judgment, Hezbollah, by operating freely here, had presented a danger not only to ourselves but also to the United States," he said.
"One has to wonder how much money went out the country" before Hezbollah funds were frozen yesterday, he added.
Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canada-Arab relations, insisted there was no evidence of improper Hezbollah activity in Canada.
The organization sent a letter to two government ministers last week complaining that the banning of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah added to Canadian Muslims' feeling of "stigmatization and marginalization."
But publicly available reports from Canadian police, intelligence and immigration services say Hezbollah has used Canada to raise money partly through organized crime and to obtain false documents and purchase military equipment.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say the group raises money in Canada by stealing cars, and intelligence sources told the National Post newspaper that Hezbollah operatives are in every major city. Israeli authorities recently arrested Fawzi Ayub, a Toronto resident, who they say was sent to Israel by Hezbollah to organize terror attacks.
Hezbollah activity in Canada also was discussed before a U.S. Senate committee by North Carolina prosecutor Robert J. Conrad, who testified on Nov. 20 that the group views its Canadian operation as pivotal.
Mr. Conrad, who has investigated Hezbollah smuggling operations, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Hezbollah had sent one of its "major players" to Vancouver to operate a clandestine cell that raised money and bought military supplies for attacks.
That leader, Mohammad Dbouk, "applied five times" for suicide missions, Mr. Conrad testified. "And he was rejected five times because of his significance to this organization."
Mr. Conrad also described a videotape seized from a Vancouver home in which Hezbollah recruits pledged to "detonate ourselves to shake the grounds under our enemies, America and Israel."
Sheik Nasrallah has in the past few weeks been reported in the Lebanese media making thinly veiled appeals to step up suicide bombing and urging followers to consider the United States as the prime enemy, along with Israel.
The official Hezbollah magazine El-Intiqad has published quotes from Sheik Nasrallah calling for a worldwide spread of the culture of suicide bombings. "Without the act of suicide, the struggle is meaningless," he said.

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