Toronto terror arrest linked to suspected plot against U.S. consulate
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2015 11:09AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 11, 2015 6:01PM EDT
A Pakistani man has been arrested in connection with a suspected terror plot against the United States consulate in Toronto.
The Canada Border Services Agency says Jahanzeb Malik was arrested on Monday on suspicion of "engaging in terrorism and being a danger to national security."
The CBSA says the suspect displayed a "violent and extremist mindset" in allegedly plotting to kill people and destroy property in Toronto. The alleged plot involved plans to bomb the U.S. consulate in Toronto and other targets in the city's financial district.
According to the CBSA, Malik attempted to “radicalize” an undercover RCMP officer by showing him videos of apparent Islamic State beheadings. Malik allegedly attempted to recruit the officer to help him make an explosive device to be detonated remotely.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney called Malik "a supporter of the Islamic State" in an address to reporters on Wednesday.
"This individual was also promoting jihadi ideology," Blaney said.
Malik arrived in Canada on a student visa in 2004. He obtained permanent resident status in 2009 with his wife as his sponsor.
Malik first appeared on the CBSA's radar when he was questioned by border guards and intelligence agents upon his arrival at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on a flight from Libya in 2013. Malik claimed he had been teaching in Libya and had also visited Saudi Arabia for a few months.
He was allowed into Canada because he is a permanent resident.
Court documents allege Malik has taken weapons, combat and landmine training in Libya, and was a “personal friend” of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
He is believed to be a self-proclaimed supporter of the Islamic State and al Qaeda.
The CBSA flagged Malik as a potential threat last week and arrested him on Monday.
Malik appeared in front of an immigration board on Wednesday. CBSA officials say they are pushing to have him deported. His next detention review is scheduled for March 16.
He has not been charged. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The arrest comes as the federal government moves to pass a new anti-terror bill that would strengthen law enforcement's ability to arrest suspected terrorist sympathizers.
Blaney said the anti-terror bill will offer law enforcement officials a "robust tool" to fight homegrown terror threats, as well as threats from abroad.
"We are taking energetic measures to fight terrorism," he said.
Canada has been on high alert since October, when two separate terror attacks left a pair of Canadian soldiers dead.
Several Canadians are suspected to have left the country to join Islamic extremist groups overseas.
Others have been arrested for allegedly attempting to do the same.
University of Calgary terror expert Michael Zekulin said the alleged plot by Malik is more “sophisticated” than the “lone wolf” terror attack trend in the last few months.
“You’re back to something a little different than what we’ve seen, in the sense that he’s talking about multiple bombs at multiple locations with remote detonators,” Zekulin told CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday.
Zekulin said as governments introduce anti-terrorism measures, countries should be “fairly successful” in preventing such attacks, but they need to remain vigilant as terrorists adapt.
“The reality that there may be individuals that subscribe to these radical ideologies who have intentions to either travel abroad or to actually do us harm here, that remains a reality and it’s something that we have to deal with,” Zekulin said. “It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”
Zekulin said law enforcement and government should be looking at counter-radicalization measures. Part of the challenge, he says, is determining the allure of the Islamic State or other terror groups for the individuals that take up their cause.
“We’re having very little success in determining any type of profile or what it is that’s going to be speaking specifically to a certain group of individuals.”