OTTAWA — A fourth member of an alleged Ottawa terror cell was taken into custody Friday as authorities continued to dismantle what they say is a plot that reached all the way from the nation’s capital to the battlefields of Afghanistan and beyond.
But the person has not yet been charged and the RCMP will not release any names.
“Earlier today in Ottawa, the (Integrated National Security Enforcement Team) executed one search warrant and took one person in custody as part of our standard operating procedures in the course of a search,” RCMP Sgt. Marc Menard said.
“No charges against this individual have been laid.”
The Mounties confirmed this latest arrest is part of an investigation that began last September known as ”Project Samossa.“ So far three other men have been arrested on terrorism-related charges as part of the probe.
Menard wouldn’t say if or when charges might be laid against the latest person arrested, or when that person could appear in court.
Rumours of another arrest began swirling Friday morning as the third suspect to face terrorism-related charges appeared in court following a year-long investigation by police and security services.
Khurram Syed Sher, 28, of London, Ont., is charged with conspiracy to facilitate terrorist activity in the case in which police say they seized more than 50 circuit boards designed to remotely detonate bombs.
Sher is a McGill University graduate and an anatomical pathologist at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in St. Thomas, Ont., just south of London.
The bearded father of three and avid hockey player appeared nervous during the brief court appearance, where a justice of the peace ordered him to return Sept. 1 via video feed.
Sher wore a striped dress shirt and dark trousers. He has dark hair and his thick, black beard is neatly trimmed to a point at his jawline. Sher clasped his hands in front of him as his eyes darted across the courtroom. At one point he spoke quietly with his lawyer, Anser Farooq.
Farooq later told reporters his client had just been flown to Ottawa on an RCMP aircraft and was anxious to return to his family.
“He’s okay. I mean, he’s just been brought over, separated from his family,” Farooq said.
“We’re hoping to address the main concern, which is getting into the court and hear the concerns the Crown has, and get him back to his family as soon as possible.”
Sher is shown in an online video auditioning for TV’s “Canadian Idol” in Montreal two years ago, moonwalking, doing the robot dance and singing a deliberately woeful version of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.”
Farooq said he had seen the video, quipping “I don’t know if he wants to try again.”
The others charged are Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, 30, and Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, both of Ottawa. They appeared in court on Thursday.
The charges say the conspiracy was carried out in Ottawa, Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan.
Police say an attack was likely still months away when they pounced on the plot, but they moved because they feared the men were about to start sending money to other terrorists in Afghanistan.
Besides the arrests, police seized circuit boards, terrorist literature and bomb-related documents.
All those arrested are Canadian citizens.
Ahmed is an X-ray technician at an Ottawa hospital. Alizadeh studied English as an additional language and electrical engineering technology at Red River College in Winnipeg.
The Mounties described the three as members of a home-grown terrorist group, although they said Alizadeh is a member of another terror group with links to the Afghan war.
Alizadeh is charged with conspiracy, committing an act for terrorism purposes and providing or making available property for terrorism purposes.
He is also charged with making or having “an explosive substance” with the intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property. Police said the circuit boards are considered an explosive substance under the Criminal Code.
Ahmed faces the same charge as Sher — conspiracy to facilitate terrorist activity.
Documents filed in provincial court in Ottawa say the men plotted with three others to “knowingly facilitate terrorist activities” in Canada and abroad.
The additional alleged conspirators named in the court documents are James Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh and Zakaria Mamosta. It is not clear where these men are. The charges say the conspiracy was carried out in Ottawa, Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan.
Ahmed recently told family members he wanted to move to Saudi Arabia, sources said.
The investigation, known as ”Project Samossa”, continues, with the Mounties refusing to provide anything but bare-bones details of the case. Connections among the three charged, their motives, their targets and whether they are linked to either the Taliban or al-Qaida will have to come out in court.
“This group posed a real and serious threat to the citizens of the National Capital Region and Canada’s national security,” RCMP Chief Supt. Serge Therriault told a news conference Thursday.
He also said the plot went beyond the capital.
”Anywhere where these individuals would travel would be a concern of mine,” he said. ”It wouldn’t be limited to Ottawa.”
He said investigators seized ”schematics, videos, drawings, instructions, books and electrical components designed specifically for the construction of improvised explosive devices or IEDs.”