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Tuesday, 18th July 2006

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Reuters Fri 14 Jul 2006
Police snipers guard a courthouse in Brampton...

Police snipers guard a courthouse in Brampton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, where men arrested on terrorism charges were to appear, June 3, 2006. A well-known Toronto Muslim says he acted as a government spy to infiltrate a gang accused of plotting terror attacks in Canada, describing the group as "fruitcakes" who could have caused great damage. REUTERS/Saul Porto

Canadian Muslim says he infiltrated "terror" gang

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A well-known Toronto Muslim says he acted as a government spy to infiltrate a gang accused of plotting terror attacks in Canada, describing the group as "fruitcakes" who could have caused great damage.

Mubin Shaikh told CBC television and two major newspapers that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spy service had asked him last year to try to infiltrate the group of 17 men, who were arrested in early June.

"I wanted to prevent the loss of life," he told Friday's Toronto Star, saying he also wanted to protect the country's large Muslim population.

"There are no combatants on the downtown streets of Toronto ... I don't want Canadians to think that these (people) are what Muslims are."

The gang is accused of planning al Qaeda-inspired attacks in Ontario, Canada's most-populous province. Police allege the men plotted to detonate bombs at targets such as the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and Toronto's stock exchange.

"I would have to say that these are fruitcakes ... but with the capacity to do some real damage," Shaikh, 29, told CBC.

He said CSIS initially asked him to befriend the leader of the group. CBC said CSIS later requested Shaikh to lead the group in a 10-day winter training course in guerrilla tactics.

A spokeswoman for CSIS declined to comment, saying the service was barred from discussing sources.

Some Muslim leaders reacted with anger to the comments by Shaikh, who came to prominence last year when he campaigned to persuade Ontario to adopt Islamic-based sharia law to settle family matters. The province rejected the bid.

"This is like the pot calling the kettle black because Mr. Mubin Shaikh has been the exponent of Islamic extremism in this city," Tarek Fatah of the Canadian Muslim Congress told the Toronto Star.

"He has been the No. 1 proponent of the imposition of sharia law in Canada, has been extremely hostile to all moderate Muslims, which calls into question whether he's acting out of sincerity or is he trying to fish himself out of his own troubles," he said. Fatah could not be reached on Friday.

Lawyers for the 17 complain their clients are being treated harshly and suggest the police might have tried to improperly entrap them.

Police say the men took steps to acquire three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that can be mixed with fuel oil to produce a powerful explosive.

"I knew that they could put a bomb together and if they had a bomb I wouldn't be surprised," Shaikh told the CBC, saying he had been particularly alarmed by one particular conversation with a member of the group.

"My comment to my CSIS handler at that time afterward was 'This guy is a f***ing time bomb, waiting to go off'," he said.

Although there was no evidence of a backlash against Canada's Muslims in the wake of the arrests, Shaikh said he had experienced unpleasantness.

"Apart from people who lose their lives, it's people like us who suffer more than anything else ... a guy like me, who's an agent of the state responsible for bringing these guys down -- I'm still called a terrorist in the street," he said.

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Last updated: 14-Jul-06 18:38 BST