'A lot' of Canadians in al-Qaeda track between words
Toronto, Vancouver men at terror training camp, Khadr says
August 17, 2004
"A lot" of Canadians trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and some still live freely in Canada, Abdurahman Khadr testified at a court hearing at which he revealed chilling new details about Canadian terror suspects and his father's ties to Osama bin Laden's training camps.
Mr. Khadr, a 21-year-old Toronto man who underwent weapons and explosives training at four camps in Afghanistan, said in testimony made public yesterday that he had given CIA agents the names of several Canadians who trained at camps such as Khalden.
"I know a lot of people that are living in the West and are living in Canada, and that live their everyday life now and are not under arrest or anything, that have been to Khalden," Mr. Khadr testified at a July 13 hearing in Montreal.
"I had a lot of friends that were Canadians that came to Afghanistan and went to training," Mr. Khadr said. "Some of them are dead now and some of them are back in Canada and some of them are under arrest."
His contention that graduates of the Afghan camps are living normal lives in Canada comes as U.S. officials are concerned that al-Qaeda might try to use Canada as a staging ground for a terrorist strike some time before November's presidential election.
Mr. Khadr testified the training camps did not instruct recruits to "go after America," but provided basic weapons training for Muslims, whom he said are obliged to prepare to defend Islamic countries from attack. But it is now widely known the camps were run by al-Qaeda and taught recruits how to attack Western targets.
Among the Canadians who attended the camps were Amer and Ahmad El-Maati of Toronto, a Vancouver man he knew as Amer, who was killed in a 1998 U.S. missile strike, and a Canadian named Idriss, who was arrested for plotting to blow up an embassy in Azerbaijan, Mr. Khadr testified.
He also testified he met Mahmoud Jaballah in Peshawar, Pakistan. Mr. Jaballah is an Egyptian being detained by Canadian authorities following his arrest in Toronto. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) alleges he is a member of the Al Jihad terrorist group. His lawyers argued at a hearing yesterday that he should not be deported to Egypt because he would face torture there. (See story Page A6)
Mr. Khadr's testimony, which fills 176 pages, lends support to accusations by CSIS that Mr. Khadr's father, the late Ahmed Khadr, was a central figure in Canada's Sunni Islamic extremist network until he was killed last year during a shootout with Pakistani security forces.
Known in Afghanistan as al-Kanadi, or the Canadian, his father's house is depicted in the testimony as a hub of Canadian jihad activity. Canadians travelling to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaeda would often pass through the Khadr family home, Abdurahman said.
"We regularly got information if there was any Canadians. In a lot of cases, these Canadians would stay at our house before they would go to Afghanistan. Otherwise, if they didn't stay in our house, then we would know that there is a Canadian coming, you know, to go to Afghanistan and he is going to Khalden or he is going to the [Khalden camp] guesthouse."
The Khadr family raised as much as $70,000 during annual fundraising visits to Canada, he added. The money, raised mostly at mosques, was for Health and Education Projects International, a non-profit organization run by Ahmed Khadr.
Abdurahman said he did not know where the money went but said he had no evidence it financed terrorist training camps. He did admit, however, that his father was close friends with three men who ran al-Qaeda's training camps, including Abu Zubaydah.
He also admitted the Khadr charity had sent supplies to Khalden camp. "I was in Khalden and there was a container of clothes and medicine that came from Canada. And later I saw medicine from the same container and clothes in the camp, in the training camp."
The testimony is the latest chapter in the saga of the Khadrs, a Canadian Muslim family that lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1 985 to 2001. Although the family long denied any ties to terrorism, the Khadrs now admit their close association to bin Laden and his top aides.
Ahmed Khadr first went to the region as a representative of the Ottawa-based humanitarian group Human Concern International. He became a friend of bin Laden and together they helped finance the fight against the Soviets in the 1980s.
He was later arrested for his alleged role in the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, but he was released after several months. Abdurahman testified the release came after Jean Chretien, then the prime minister, "used his influence on Benazir Bhutto," then the prime minister of Pakistan.
Later, the Khadrs moved into bin Laden's compound in Jalalabad and became what Abdurahman described as an al-Qaeda family.
In November, 2001, Abdurahman was captured by Northern Alliance rebels and handed over to British and American intelligence agents. He claims he co-operated with the CIA and was sent to Guantanamo Bay and Bosnia to spy for the Americans.
His brother Omar was arrested in July, 2002, and remains at Guantanamo. Abdurahman said in his testimony that Omar, accused of killing a U.S. soldier, had confessed at first but then stopped talking.
"My brother Omar co-operated with the FBI and he was ready; they were being ready to release him and then he was in his cellblock and people saw that he was being ready to be released so they told him: 'Oh, you told everything. You are going to Hell. So if you don't change, you are going to Hell.' So the next time he went to interrogation, he denied everything, so they took away everything from him and he is still there now."
His father was killed and his youngest brother, Karim, was injured in a shootout in Pakistan in October, 2003. His mother, Maha Elsamnah, returned to Canada with Karim in the spring, raising an outcry among Canadians who wanted the family barred from the country.
Abdurahman made his comments while testifying as a defence witness in the case of Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan arrested in Montreal after CSIS alleged he was an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. Mr. Khadr testified that while he knew many of the Canadians who trained in Afghanistan, he had never seen Mr. Charkaoui.
Government lawyers tried to discredit him, noting he had changed his story several times. They also emphasized he had not recognize the names of such other Canadian terrorist suspects as Mohammed Marzouk, Abousofian Abdelrazik, Samir Ezzine and Abdallah Ouzghar.
He admits to lying in the past but said that two days after giving a false account of his activities at a news conference in Toronto, he told his lawyer, Rocco Galati, he was actually a CIA informer. He insists he is telling the truth now and just wants to live a normal life in Canada.
He is also suing the Canadian government for a passport, which the government refuses to issue because of his family's al-Qaeda links.
© National Post 2004
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