Russia warns Canada is a target of terrorists
Russia's deputy foreign minister says an attack on Canadian soil is inevitable
CanWest News Service
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
OTTAWA -- Russian government officials have warned Canada's top spy about possible terrorist threats to Canadian troops now serving in Afghanistan, the Ottawa Citizen has learned.
The security briefing came in Ottawa during a meeting between Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov and Ward Elcock, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's spy agency.
Trubnikov, who is also Moscow's former chief of intelligence, offered Elcock his country's latest intelligence about Afghanistan "so that your troops are safer."
A senior Russian official said Trubnikov also exchanged information with Elcock about the inevitability of an attack inside Canada during a recent wide-ranging discussion about international terrorism.
"We have this bloody history in Afghanistan," the Russian official said, referring to the former Soviet Union's 10-year occupation of Afghanistan that ended in 1989, when Moscow was finally beaten back by mujahedeen rebel fighters. "Your people were grateful."
Russian officials declined to talk specifically about the nature of the intelligence that was offered to Canada, which now contributes about 2,000 soldiers to the NATO-led security force based in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Three major entities continue to pose a threat to all western troops in Afghanistan: Taliban insurgents, al-Qaida terrorists and loyalists of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, who led a guerrilla uprising against the Soviet invasion of the 1980s.
Taliban fighters killed one U.S. marine in hostilities in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, bringing to 122 the number of U.S. troops killed since October 2001, when the Americans launched Operation Enduring Freedom to overthrow Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Seven Canadians have been killed on two separate missions to Afghanistan, including four who died in a friendly fire incident while serving on Enduring Freedom in April 2002.
Three more Canadians died during the current one-year NATO mission to Kabul, including two in a roadside explosion last fall in the Kabul foothills, and a third when a suicide bomber hurled himself at Canadian jeep earlier this year.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bomber attack on the Canadian jeep, while terrorists have been blamed for last fall's roadside mine explosion. Trubnikov said Canada's contributions to the international fight against terrorism -- particularly its six-month mission in 2002 as part of Enduring Freedom to actively hunt al-Qaida terrorists with the Americans -- now make the country vulnerable to a major terrorist strike on Canadian soil.
In an exclusive interview, Trubnikov noted that Canada is one of several nations that have actively waged war on al-Qaida abroad.
"They'll target those states actively involved," he said. A November 2002 audio tape warning from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden singled out Canada and several other countries for retribution for aiding the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
Trubnikov said he and Elcock had a frank discussion about the likelihood of an al-Qaida strike on Canadian soil, and both agreed that it was inevitable that one would occur.
Trubnikov said he got to know Elcock well after he became head of Russian intelligence in 1996. Elcock is to step down as CSIS head at the end of the month.
"No one can just wait and see, hoping that his state is immune from terrorist attacks," said Trubnikov. "Such an attitude would be a great mistake."
Elcock offered that same warning to a Commons committee during testimony two weeks ago. "As al-Qaida directly threatened Canadians twice in as many years, the last time only a month ago, it is therefore sa
fe to assume that it is no longer a question of if, but rather of when or where, we will be specifically targeted," Elcock said in testimony May 5.
The second al-Qaida threat to Canada came earlier this year, Elcock noted, when an Islamic extremist manual listed Canada as the fifth of six countries targeted for retaliation.
Trubnikov said Canada has been lucky so far, given the attacks directed at Spain in March's Madrid railway bombings, and the blast in Bali, Indonesia, that targeted Australians.
Both attacks killed approximately 200 people each.
He also noted the bomb blasts in Istanbul that targeted British institutions, and numerous terrorist strikes in Moscow and Chechnya.
"This is not just a question of concern or speculation. It's a matter of time," said Trubnikov.