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Canada to unveil details of alleged terrorist ring

Written by: Staff

TORONTO, June 6 (Reuters) Canadian prosecutors will outline in a bail hearing today details of their case against an alleged home-grown terrorist ring that may have planned to bomb targets in Ottawa and Toronto.

The arrest of 17 Canadian Muslim men, five of them under the age of 18, in police swoops over the weekend represents Canada's largest anti-terrorism operation. Police held open the possibility of additional arrests.

''We're going to follow every investigative lead and any person that we find who has aided, facilitated or participated will be arrested and brought before the courts,'' Mike McDonell, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told Reuters.

''When the charges are read into the court you'll learn quite a bit more and we prefer to get the intricacies out through the court.'' The Mounties say the arrested men had taken delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be mixed with fuel oil to produce a powerful explosive.

It took just one tonne of the fertilizer to build the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb that killed 168 people.

Charges against the men include trying to build bombs and training, or being trained, as terrorists, according to court documents released on Monday.

Places mentioned by newspapers as possible targets for the group included Toronto's landmark CN Tower and the Peace Tower of the Parliament Building in Ottawa.

Canadian newspapers said the men had a training camp in a wooded area to the north of Toronto. Nearby residents had in the past fretted about night-time gunfire and wondered what the police helicopters were looking for as they buzzed overhead the following day.

McDonell said it would be up to the court to decide whether to impose a gag order that would sharply restrict what the media can say about the charges.

''For a lot of the information, we prefer to introduce it through the courts in the first instance so that we're not prejudicing anyone's chances for a fair trial. If the court says we're free to talk, I'll be talking,'' he said.

The men and youths arrested were all Canadian citizens or Canadian residents. Seven worshiped at the same mosque, a storefront building in a middle-class neighborhood to the west of Toronto.

A lawyer for the mosque's management said the men would not be welcomed back if the charges are proved.

''We feel betrayed by the suspects,'' Tariq Shah told Reuters.

''In hindsight, management should have caught it. We had no prior knowledge of it.'' Muslims make up some 2 percent of Canada's population of 33 million, and community leaders already fear that the arrests will lead to attacks on their community. Vandals smashed the windows of a Toronto mosque on Saturday in what police described as a hate crime.


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