Al Qaeda WMD attack 'feasible,' Cdn report warns

CTV.ca News Staff
Updated: Tue. Jun. 8 2004 7:43 AM ET

Al Qaeda may have acquired weapons of mass destruction and the possibility of terrorists using them to strike within Canada "cannot be ruled out," according to a Canadian intelligence report.

"The changing face of terrorism, has made the potential use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons in a terrorist attack feasible," says the report, which was distributed to federal government agencies and is quoted in Tuesday's National Post.

"The possibility that a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) -- chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear -- could be acquired and used by terrorist groups must be given serious consideration."

The report, entitled "Al Qaeda and the Sunni Islamic Extremist Threat," was written by Ottawa's Integrated National Security Assessment Centre and is marked "for official purposes only." The Post obtained a declassified copy under the Access to Information Act.

The report goes on to suggest that the naming of Canada in a November 2002 audiotape by Osama bin Laden as well as the deployment of Canadian troops suggest Canada is at risk of being targeted.

"The naming of Canada by bin Laden as a legitimate al Qaeda target can be interpreted as a direct threat to Canadian security, both at home and abroad," says the report. "The possibility of an attack occurring in Canada cannot be ruled out."

The report is just the latest suggestion that Canada could be targeted by terrorists. Last month, former CSIS director Ward Elcock said it is not a matter of "if, but rather of when and where" terrorists could strike here.

South of the border, officials have warned that al Qaeda could be planning a large-scale attack this summer. On Monday, a warning posted on a website known for posting messages from Muslim militants cautioned that Western airliners could be the next target.

But speaking on Canada AM Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said officials "do not see an immediate problem at the moment."

"We are aware of the threat, aware of the danger," he said. "I want to assure you that the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and others have been looking at what we can do in terms of airline safety."

Graham added that protecting citizens from terrorist attacks is a matter of "close international collaboration," and would be discussed by leaders at the G-8 summit, which kicks off in Sea Island, Georgia Tuesday.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft warned that "disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda's specific intention to hit the United States hard," but he said intelligence officials had no specific details about where, when or how such an attack could take place.

Ashcroft identified seven suspects in connection with the threat, including two Canadians.

Last week al Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack at an oil industry residential compound in Khobar, Saudi Arabia that killed 22 people.

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