"Toronto 18" mastermind gets life for bomb plot

Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:10pm EST
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Zakaria Amara, considered the ringleader of the "Toronto 18" extremist Muslim group that planned al Qaeda-style bombings of Toronto landmarks in 2006, was given a life sentence on Monday, the stiffest penalty yet imposed under Canadian anti-terrorism laws.

The sentence, handed down in a Toronto-area court, is the fourth custodial term handed out in the sprawling case, and follows a 12-year sentence given earlier in the day to admitted co-conspirator Saad Gaya.

Amara, 24, pleaded guilty in October to charges of planning explosions likely to cause serious bodily harm or death and of participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

His sentence includes a life term for the first charge, and a nine-year term for the second, the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement. Given credit for time already served, he will be eligible for parole in just over six years.

Prosecutors say Amara was the leader of a group that had planned to detonate truck bombs near targets such as the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CN Tower, an Ontario military base and the Toronto offices of the national spy agency. The aim was to force Canada to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

In reading the decision, Ontario Superior Court Bruce Durno said the crime envisioned by Amara would have been one of the most horrific in Canadian history, media reported.

Earlier in his sentencing hearing, Amara renounced his extremist views and said his interpretation of Islam was "naive and gullible."


<p>Armed police officers guard the garage entrance as a van arrives during the bail hearing for suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers accused of planning bomb attacks, in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, June 6, 2006. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>