Canadian jets targeted in U.K. terror plot, trial hears
Published Wednesday, April 2, 2008 8:50PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 7:58PM EDT
Canadian transatlantic flights may have been among those targeted by a number of British men about to go on trial for terrorism-related charges, a court heard in London.
The revelation came as a surprise to many, "because Canadian authorities had always assumed and always said that it was only American airlines that were being targeted," CTV's London Bureau Chief Tom Kennedy told Newsnet on Wednesday.
The Canadian flights are believed to be two Air Canada planes headed to Montreal and Toronto. Five other flights to the U.S. were also allegedly targeted.
RCMP Sgt. Nathalie Deschenes told CTV.ca that no charges have ever been laid in a similar type of case in Canada since the 1985 Air India bombing, adding she wouldn't be able to confirm or deny the investigation of any plots in Canada where no charges have been laid.
Jury selection is underway for the eight men, who are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and with plotting to "commit an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft."
In addressing potential jurors on Wednesday, Justice David Calvert-Smith told them: "This concerns an allegation that in 2006 a number of men planned to create bombs which some of their number would take on board passenger aircraft flying from London Heathrow to various destinations in Canada and the USA.
"It is further alleged that the bombs were planned to be set off when the aircraft were airborne and the bombers and all in the aircraft would be killed," he added.
The bombs, allegedly liquid explosives, were designed to go off simultaneously over the Atlantic Ocean and hit seven different flights, Kennedy said. "Police were saying back then and are still saying now that if it had worked, it would have been an absolute mass murder on an almost unprecedented scale."
Canada 'a target'
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with CSIS, told CTV Newsnet that the alleged targeting of Canada shouldn't come as a surprise.
"Canada is on the prime list to be targeted eventually," he said.
"Put yourself in the boots of the terrorist for a moment, you have limited resources, limited amount of people willing to die, and of course, limited amount of explosives - you have to select your targets very seriously - and they decided to (attack) Canada.
"That is quite the indicator that Canada is quite high on the list."
Osama Bin Laden himself has said Canada is a target for Al Qaeda and of the five countries on the terrorist group's list of intended targets, only Canada has not been attacked.
The men in the U.K. trial were arrested in August 2006 in London and Birmingham, England's second-largest city.
The following are on trial: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Mohammed Gulzar, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman and Umar Islam.
"They are being referred to as 'home-grown.' These are British Muslims, many of Pakistani descent," Kennedy said.
Early estimates suggest their trial could take up to eight months. Calvert-Smith only told the 100 prospective jurors that the trial would be long and complex.
Crown prosecutor Peter Wright will begin outlining his case on Thursday. Kennedy said evidence won't begin until next week.
The case affects air travellers to this day. When the arrests were made, Transport Canada slapped restrictions on bringing liquids aboard aircraft.
Currently, Canadian air travellers are subject to the following restrictions, according to the Transport Canada website:
"Liquids, gels and aerosols in containers with a capacity of 100 ml / 100 grams (3.4 oz.) or less are permitted through pre-board security screening as long as they fit comfortably in one (1) clear, closed and re-sealable plastic bag with a capacity of no more than 1 litre (1 quart). Please note that bags stretched beyond their capacity are not permitted. One bag per person."
Similar restrictions are in place in Britain and the United States.
With a report from CTV's Tom Kennedy and files from The Associated Press