| A part of the haul in Toronto. (AP)
Washington, June 3: Several Canadians believed to be of Indian origin are among 17 people rounded up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Greater Toronto last night in the biggest anti-terrorism investigation in Canada since an Air-India aircraft was bombed by Khalistanis in 1985.
The list of those arrested, released in Toronto today by the authorities, names Steven Vikash Chand as among those detained during raid, which also led to the seizure of bomb-making material, computer hard drives and camouflage uniforms.
Chand, 25, a resident of Toronto, converted to Islam and has an alias, Abdul Shakur. Another detainee, Asad Ansari, 21, of Mississauga in the Greater Toronto area, is also believed to be of Indian origin.
There are some more Indian-sounding names on the list of 12 detainees released today, but it could not be verified immediately whether they originally came from elsewhere in the sub-continent.
Canada has a large number of immigrants from East Africa who trace their ancestry to undivided British India. Five names were not released by the authorities for legal reasons under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“The men arrested yesterday are Canadian residents from a variety of backgrounds,” according to Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s intelligence agency. “For various reasons, they appeared to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al Qaida.”
If it is finally determined that there are Indo-Canadians among those arrested last night, it will be a rare instance of people of Indian origin being involved in any international terrorism plot since September 11, 2001.
Two Indians were charged, not for involvement in terrorism, but for selling mobile phone cards to those who bombed trains in Madrid in March 2004.
Reports in the Canadian media this morning said the plotters intended to attack targets in Toronto, including the headquarters of the CSIS. During the raids, the police recovered three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser commonly used by terrorists to make bombs.
This is three times the amount of ammonium nitrate used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in the US in April 1995, killing 168 people.
The Toronto plot was uncovered even as Canadian troops have become increasingly involved in fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan in recent weeks, resulting in deaths of Canadian soldiers.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement today after the RCMP announced the arrests: “Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. Through the work and cooperation of the RCMP, CSIS, local law enforcement and Toronto’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), acts of violence by extremist groups may have been prevented. Today, Canada’s security and intelligence measures worked.”
Harper added that Canada’s new government will pursue its efforts to ensure the national security of all Canadians.