- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

A pizza delivery man detained by Canadian authorities as an al Qaeda terrorism suspect pledged his loyalty to the Armed Islamic Group, an extremist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Algerian government, U.S. and Canadian intelligence officials say.
Mohammed Harkat, 34, is being held pending a deportation hearing after his arrest last month in Ottawa. Detained by Ottawa police although not formally charged with a crime, he has been declared a threat to national security.
Algerian militants with ties to Canada have emerged as key suspects in terrorist attacks aimed at U.S. targets, including the December 1999 plot to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in the days before Jan. 1, 2000.
Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian national and Canadian resident, was arrested by U.S. Customs Service agents as he tried to enter Washington state from Canada in a car loaded with explosives, chemicals and timing devices. He entered Canada using a fake French passport in 1994, a year before Harkat, after training at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 1990s.
Ressam, one of three Algerians convicted in the plot, told the court he had been trained in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden, where he was taught about explosives, rocket-launching, urban warfare, assassination and sabotage.
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) said in documents filed in an Ottawa court that Harkat had ties to key al Qaeda leaders, including Abu Zubaydah, the terrorist network's operational planner and a top member of bin Laden's inner circle.
"His support for individuals and groups involved in political violence or terrorist activity, his alliances with Islamic extremists and his use of security techniques lead the CSIS to believe Harkat is associated with organizations that support the use of political violence and terrorism," the CSIS said in the documents.
U.S. and Canadian intelligence officials said the Armed Islamic Group, also known as the GIA, has engaged in frequent attacks against Algerian police, security personnel, government officials, journalists and foreign residents. They said the GIA has also conducted a terrorist campaign against civilians, killing hundreds of men and women through assassinations and car bombings.
Since 1992, the U.S. State Department said 1,500 people have died in Algerian violence.
The CSIS also linked Harkat to Ahmed Khadr, suspected of being a terrorist operative and placed on the U.S. government's most-wanted list after the September 11 attacks. Khadr, believed to be the highest-ranking Canadian in al Qaeda's network, was identified as a "close associate" of bin Laden who helped finance terrorist activities through charitable organizations.
Khadr's teenage son, Omar al-Khadr, is being held at the U.S. military headquarters in Bagram, Afghanistan, in the killing of U.S. Special Forces Sgt. Christopher J. Speer. Sgt. Speer, a 28-year-old medic, died after suffering a head wound during a search of the Ab Khail village in Afghanistan on July 27.
Six days before he was wounded, Sgt. Speer had walked into a minefield and rescued two wounded Afghan children.
CSIS investigators said supporters of bin Laden and his terrorist network are operating in Canada and that several people under investigation "are the products of violent Jihad." They said Canadian-based terrorists have the "capability and conviction to provide support for terrorist activities in North America."
Canadian intelligence officials also have linked Harkat to the Muslim World League and the International Islamic Relief Organization, two Saudi-based charitable groups suspected of assisting terrorists. Both were named in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed in the United States by family members of those killed in the attacks on the United States in 2001.
In September, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the two charities were among several believed to have helped fund the September 11 hijackers. The RCMP said the main sources of al Qaeda's funding were charities, nongovernmental organizations and commercial entities, and that the money was funneled to the network through the Hawala, an underground banking system.
Harkat was granted refugee status in Canada in February 1997. His March 1997 application for permanent residence never was completed because of still-pending security and criminal checks.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide