TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada said on Wednesday it had foiled a plot by a self-proclaimed Islamic State supporter to bomb the U.S. consulate and other buildings in Toronto’s financial district.
The alleged plot came to light after the Pakistani man, who has lived in Canada since 2004, tried to recruit an undercover Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, officials said.
Jahanzeb Malik, 33, was arrested on Monday by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and appeared at a deportation hearing on Wednesday on grounds of being a danger to security. He has not been charged with any criminal offences.
“I would like to confirm that CBSA has arrested an individual, a supporter of the Islamic State, who was allegedly planning a terrorist attack here in Canada,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told reporters in Ottawa.
Asked what stage the plot was at, Blaney said he could not comment: “The RCMP has clearly indicated that this individual was willing to commit a terrorist attack on Canadian soil.”
Malik was befriended by the undercover RCMP officer during a long investigation into the activities of the former student, who has a record of travel to Pakistan and allegedly underwent combat training in Libya, CBSA said. The accusations have not been proven in court.
“He told the undercover officer about his plan to build remote-controlled bombs to blow up the U.S. consulate and other buildings in the financial district in Toronto,” the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada said in an email.
Canada has been on heightened alert since a gunman attacked the Parliament building in Ottawa in October after fatally shooting a soldier at a nearby war memorial. The attack by a so-called “lone wolf” Canadian convert to Islam came two days after another convert rammed two soldiers in Quebec with his car, killing one.
Malik, who came to Canada as a student and became a permanent resident in 2009, told the undercover officer of his plans to make a video of the bombings to encourage others to do the same, the CBSA said. He also claimed to be a personal friend of U.S. cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike on Yemen.
“Mr. Malik attempted to radicalize the undercover officer by showing him videos, apparently of ISIL beheadings,” the agency said, referring to killings by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
Canada’s Conservative government, which is heading into an autumn election in which security issues are likely to be a dominant theme, said the arrest is proof that its plan to give intelligence services sweeping new powers to disrupt terror plots is needed. The legislation has been criticized as too intrusive and unnecessary by legal experts and opposition politicians.
The Canadian government is seeking to deport Malik as a security threat and the hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board on Wednesday was held to determine whether he should be detained during the deportation process, which can take months.
Another Pakistani man suspected of militant links, Muhammad Aqeeq Ansari, is being held awaiting possible deportation.
With additional reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway