- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

TORONTO — For some, basketball and barbecues in Toronto’s bland suburbs were favorite pastimes. One was a doctor’s son who had finished college, another struggled with a string of short-lived jobs.

At some point, it appears, the men came under the sway of an older, embittered militant. Coming from three continents and diverse backgrounds, the 17 Muslim Canadians now stand accused of a terror plot that would have convulsed their adopted country.

Five of the suspects are minors; no information about them has been released. The others range in age from 19 to 43, some born in Canada and others abroad. Their families — mostly middle-class — come from Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago.

According to court documents, the purported plot envisioned bombings of targets in Ontario, storming of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. headquarters, and capturing — and possibly beheading — the prime minister and other politicians to enforce a demand for the release of Muslim prisoners and withdrawal of Canada’s 2,300 troops from Afghanistan.

Many questions remain about who led the group. But the oldest suspect, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, stands out thus far as the one mostly clearly linked by acquaintances to strident political views.

The 43-year-old father of three was active at the Al-Rahman Islamic Center, a storefront mosque attended by at least six of the other suspects in Mississauga, a heavily immigrant suburb of 700,000 just west of Toronto.

“He was very active associating with the young fellows,” said Faheem Bukhari, a director of the Mississauga Muslim Community Center. “He was teaching them intolerance.”

Mr. Bukhari recalled one Friday service at the mosque when Mr. Jamal took the microphone and asserted that Canadian forces were going to Afghanistan to rape Muslim women.

At another point, Mr. Bukhari said he was at the mosque encouraging people to register to vote when Mr. Jamal confronted him.

“He came up to me and said this is all forbidden — it is un-Islamic to take part in an election, and we don’t want to be any part of this society,” Mr. Bukhari said. “It was so hateful.”

Another prominent suspect, Steven Vikash Chand, 25, was born to a Hindu family from Sri Lanka, but recently converted to Islam and is also known as Abdul Shakur. His attorney revealed this week that Mr. Chand, who had served in the Toronto-based Royal Regiment of Canada, had purportedly discussed beheading Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Two suspects were in jail when the others were arrested last weekend. They were convicted last year of smuggling weapons into Canada from the United States.

Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, came to Canada as boys from violence-racked Somalia.

Dirie was interviewed by the Toronto Star in 2003, when — after a frustrating string of temporary jobs — he was learning carpentry, looking forward to college and taking steps to gain citizenship. “Life was very stressful for me. … I was totally lost,” he told the newspaper. “Now I’m on the right track.”

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