TORONTO (Reuters) - Fahim Ahmad, one of two ringleaders in the 2006 “Toronto 18” plot to detonate bombs and attack landmarks in major Canadian cities, was sentenced on Monday to 16 years in prison.
One of 18 men and youths charged with terror offenses after a 2006 police sting in Toronto, Ahmad initially pleaded not guilty to the three counts against him, but he changed his plea to guilty in March.
“In doing so, he admitted to participating in a terrorist group, instructing others to carry out activities for a terrorist group and importing firearms for the benefit of that group,” Canada’s Public Prosecution Service, which prosecutes offenses under federal jurisdiction, said in a statement.
The sentence is one of the last to be handed out in the case. Members of the group were arrested in 2006 following an attempt to buy what they thought was three tons of bomb-making ingredient ammonium nitrate from undercover police officers.
Police say the group had planned to detonate truck bombs near targets such as the Toronto Stock Exchange, Toronto’s CN Tower, an Ontario military base, and offices of the national spy agency. They also discussed storming the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, with the aim of forcing Canada to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Coming in the wake of the 2005 London Underground bombings, the arrests sparked fears that home-grown Muslim terror cells could be plotting similar attacks in Canada.
Police say Ahmad did much of the early recruiting for the group, making contacts online, and then leading a training camp at a site a few hours’ drive north of Toronto in December 2005. At the camp, group members played war games and listened to Ahmad’s lectures on the evils of Western culture.
The group was monitored by police throughout its preparations and a member of the group was a police informant. Most of the members lived in the Toronto-area cities of Mississauga and Brampton, Ontario.
The case also served as a test of Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Police eventually dropped charges against seven of the group, including four who were 18 years old or under at the time of their arrest.
The remaining 11 have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted, and have received sentences ranging from time served to life in prison, which was the sentence meted out to Zakaria Amara, who is considered to be the other ringleader.
Ahmad is expected to be given two years of credit for each for the 4-1/2 years he has spent behind bars already, and he is eligible for parole in 3-1/2 years.
Asad Ansari and Steven Chand, who were found guilty in July, are the final two convicted members of the “Toronto 18” to be sentenced. They are expected be sentenced in November.
Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Peter Galloway