Al Qaeda website urges attacks on Canada

al Qaeda website
Saif al-Adel

Saif al-Adel

Public Security Minister Anne McLellan

Public Security Minister Anne McLellan

CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Wed. Mar. 31 2004 11:33 PM ET

Canada has been named again in a chilling new call to arms from al Qaeda. A posting found this week on an al Qaeda website places Canada fifth on a target list.

The website is believed to be published by senior al Qaeda figure, Saif al-Adel. It calls on followers to attack Canadians and other westerners at home and abroad.

Experts warn it could be only a matter of time before Canada is hit. Several other countries named on the list -- such as Spain and Australia -- have already been attacked. Terror experts warn that Canadians have a false sense of security.

"We're a target. We're very clearly in its crosshairs," says John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute.

Terror experts warn there appears to be an escalating strategy to strike "softer" targets of the West.

"I think Canadians should take it very seriously," says American terror watchdog Rita Katz. "Especially considering the fact that the manuals they are using are the ones they use to communicate to al Qaeda throughout the world."

In Ottawa, Public Security Minister Anne McLellan downplayed any threat.

"We are a named country, that is very clear. That is not new. Osama bin Laden named us. We know that we are a named country and we act accordingly," she told reporters in Ottawa.

But a new report suggests Canada wouldn't react very well at all. A Senate committee found that if Canada is hit with a terrorist attack or major natural disaster, its frontline workers won't be equipped to deal with it.

The committee found:

  • There is still no national plan to deal with biological attacks
  • Few police forces are equipped with the proper protective gear
  • Police, firefighters and ambulance forces in most communities are all on different communications systems.
  • The report also found problems at our national agency responsible for co-ordinating emergencies, the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness.
  • The office's phone system when down during the power blackout in Ontario last August.
  • As well, half of Canada's communities didn't know what the agency was. Of those that did, half questioned its usefulness.
  • Red tape and bureaucratic hassles are hampering their potential effectiveness, said the committee, which studied the issue for more than two years.

Canadians "should be damned mad about it," said Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate committee on national security and defence, at an Ottawa news conference.

"Canadians are entitled to reasonable service when an emergency hits, and entitled to have their officials plan in advance and have the right equipment there and available," Kenny said.

Kenny was particularly scornful of OCIPEP, saying it can do everything but respond to an emergency.

The committee said the federal government should take on the responsibility of not only strengthening its own emergency systems but helping out the provinces with theirs.

The Senate report comes on the heels of a report from Auditor General Sheila Fraser who said gaps in security measures could leave the country vulnerable to a terrorist strike.

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