Terror plot sought to hurt economy

A foiled terror plot targeting the Toronto area sought to destabilize the economy by attacking targets including the Toronto Stock Exchange with three truck bombs set off over several days — possibly starting on Sept. 11, a court heard Monday.

Saad Khalid is seen in this 2004 high school yearbook photo.

BRAMPTON, Ont. — A foiled terror plot targeting the Toronto area sought to destabilize the economy by attacking targets including the Toronto Stock Exchange with three truck bombs set off over several days — possibly starting on Sept. 11, a court heard Monday.

The Superior Court of Justice heard in an agreed statement of facts that one of the alleged co-conspirators wanted the 2006 plot to “screw” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the government and the military, hoped the attacks would be bigger than the London subway bombings, and believed they would make Canada rethink its involvement in Afghanistan.

He also said he wanted to “detonate the bombs on three consecutive days, rather than simultaneously, because he feels it would have a greater impact on Canada and result in Canadians not leaving their homes due to fear,” according to the statement of facts read by Crown lawyer Croft Michaelson.

The other targets included CSIS headquarters in Toronto and an unspecified military base off Highway 401 between Ottawa and Toronto.

Information gathered by an undercover agent also revealed two of the ringleaders disagreed about whether the bombs should result in the deaths of innocent bystanders, and one planned to leave the country before the explosions were set off.

Expert reports based on an analysis of the plans and materials found in one of the men’s homes said a test of those plans showed that “the blast effect from the bomb was equivalent to 768 kilograms of TNT, and would have caused catastrophic damage to a multi-storey glass and steel frame building 35 metres from the bomb site, as well as killing or causing serous injuries to people in the path of the blast waves and force.”

The account in the agreed statement of facts was read into a court record during a sentencing hearing for Saad Khalid, 22, — the first of the so-called Toronto 18 to enter a guilty plea in relation to the domestic terror plot.

Khalid pleaded guilty to a single count of participating in a terror group “with the intention of causing an explosion or explosions that were likely to cause serious bodily harm or death,” or to damage property.

The charge alleges that Khalid acted with other conspirators, including those who discussed the plot, who cannot be named due to a publication ban.

Khalid’s actual involvement with the plan appears to have been of a more supportive nature, with tasks that included renting a home for the others to work in, moving bags of explosive materials from a van to the warehouse he eventually rented, and driving one of the bomb trucks.

That last task was never completed, since Khalid was arrested while moving the bags — an act captured on video and played for the court.

The court also heard a recording of a message Khalid left for some of the other men, discussing his progress securing the items he was asked to procure, explaining his unavailability on the nights he had soccer practice and games, and apologizing for losing the pager the members of the group used to communicate because “we need to be careful … there is no room for error; this is not a joke.”

Khalid was among 18 people arrested in the Toronto area in the summer of 2006 and charged with several terrorism-related offences following an investigation by CSIS, Canada’s spy agency.

Seven of the accused have since had their charges stayed or dropped.

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