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India-born among 3 charged in Canada with Al Qaeda plot

Last updated on: August 27, 2010 14:50 IST
An India-born man and a Pakistani contestant of Canada's version of American Idol were among three people arrested as part of a major Al Qaeda terror plot to bomb targets within and outside the country.

The three suspected homegrown terrorists arrested over the past two days -- two in Ottawa and one in London – have been charged in connection with a plot with links to senior Al Qaeda figures in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

Misbahuddin Ahmed, believed to be born in India, and Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh -- both from Ottawa -- and Khurram Syed Sher of London were accused of conspiring with three others -- James Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh and Zakaria Mamosta -- in a terror plot police traced back to Pakistan, Iran and Dubai.

Hiva Alizadeh, 30, and Ahmed, 26, appeared in court on Thursday after their arrests on Wednesday in Ottawa under the project codenamed 'Operation Samosa'.

The trio were charged with conspiring to build bombs for attacks in Canada and raise money to fund IED attacks on Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

The police refused to identify the targets of the alleged terrorists, saying that information would come out in court.

"The arrests have prevented the gathering of bombs and the execution of one or many terrorist attacks," said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Serge Therriault.

"This group posed a real and serious threat to the citizens of the national capital region and Canada's national security," Therriault said.

The police said the accused had IED parts, including more than 50 circuit boards that could be used to remotely detonate bombs, but wouldn't say if the group had explosives.

Robert Farrell, a former Canadian diplomat who had rented his house to Ahmed, was quoted as saying that Ahmed was born in India, but had lived for a time in Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed, who works as an X-ray technician at the Ottawa Hospital, rented the home about a year ago, after responding to an ad Farrell had placed on an online rental site.

Coalition sources in Kandahar say they are aware that IED components, rocket propelled grenades, ammunition and landmines coming from Iran have found their way to insurgents in Afghanistan.

The third suspect Sher is believed to be arrested in southwestern Ontario where he recently moved. He is believed to be a doctor who graduated from McGill University medical school in 2005.

The website for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario lists Sher as practising at the Thomas Elgin General Hospital in the Department of Anatomical Pathology.

Pakistan-origin Sher appeared on the reality show Canadian Idol in 2008 singing a comical version of Avril Lavigne's Complicated, complete with dance moves that include a moonwalk.

In 2006, Sher was in Pakistan during the relief efforts after an earthquake in Kashmir.

The arrests follow a two-year police investigation into what is believed to be a bomb plot with a yet-to-be determined target.

The ringleader is believed to have trained in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region, according to the National Post.

The arrests were made on Wednesday as one of the suspects was preparing to travel abroad.

Speaking in Tuktoyaktuk, North Western Territories, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was "not my place" to comment on the specifics of police investigations.

However, he added, "Unfortunately, this incident does serve to remind us that Canada does face some very real threats in the troubled world in which we live".

Harper said terror networks threatening Western nations have a global reach.

"They exist not only in remote countries but through globalisation and the Internet, they have links in our country and all through the world,"" he said.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said, "Canada is not immune and that's why Canada must remain vigilant."

Bal Krishna in Toronto