August 09, 2008

Oh, bring on the terrorism propaganda NOW

The beginning of terrorism

An amateur training camp could be the beginning of indoctrination

Wesley Wark, Citizen Special

Published: Saturday, August 09, 2008

Canada is in the midst of two major terrorism trials, something never before experienced in our history.

In Ottawa, the trial of Momin Khawaja resumes on Aug. 19 at which point it is widely anticipated that his defence counsel, Edward Greenspon, will finally show his hand. Greenspon is expected to urge that the charges against his client be dismissed for lack of evidence connecting him to a British plot to use fertilizer bombs against a host of civilian targets in and around London. The trial of the first of 11 alleged members of a Toronto terror cell that is alleged to have threatened to storm Parliament and to detonate a bomb on Front Street, home to both the CBC and the Toronto regional headquarters for CSIS, is in recess while the judge considers the charges.

In both trials, the involvement of the accused in terrorist training camps has emerged as critical evidence. Momin Khawaja attended a camp in Pakistan. While there he took part in weapons training and is alleged to have enjoyed the experience of firing off various pieces of armament. The accused in the Toronto case, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, found his training closer to home, in a couple of do-it-yourself camps, one near Orillia, the other at a conservation area in Rockwood, a small town west of Toronto.

A bus destroyed by a bomb London in 2005: Wesley Wark asks at what point does the law delineate where training for terrorism crosses the line to become an illegal act? View Larger Image

A bus destroyed by a bomb London in 2005: Wesley Wark asks at what point does the law delineate where training for terrorism crosses the line to become an illegal act?

Getty Images
In both cases, crucial evidence to place the accused at these camps came from informants. A former jihadist colleague turned FBI informant, Mohammed Babar, revealed Momin Khawaja's journey to his Pakistani camp. Babar knew all about the camp because he was its creator. In the Toronto case, the accused's presence was documented by Mubin Shaikh, a volatile figure who volunteered his services to CSIS after he learned that his childhood friend, Momin Khawaja, had been arrested in 2004. Shaikh was taken on by the alleged leader of the Toronto cell as its military trainer, largely on the basis of his brief stint in the army reserves and tough demeanour.

Shaik's time on the witness stand proved a little frustrating to the Crown prosecutor in the case, as he gave an unexpected colour to his evidence by suggesting that the accused really knew little about the hidden reality of the training camp's purpose. Similarly, in the Khawaja case, while the fact of his presence at the Pakistani camp was not disputed, his defence lawyer has pointed out that he attended the camp only briefly (for three to four days), did not rendezvous there with the leader of the British terror cell, Omar Khyam, who visited the camp after Khawaja's departure, and took no part in the trail detonation of a bomb at the camp. Khawaja's lawyer has gone further and argued that he did not know the real purpose of the camp, believing that it was intended to train Muslim fighters for jihad in Afghanistan.

The evidence of attendance at terror training camps can seem in these two trials both damning and oddly exculpatory. This paradox goes to the heart of the modern day phenomenon of home-grown terrorism. Simply put, terrorism training camps are not quite what we might imagine them to be; they don't fit the televised image seared into our conscious after 9/11, of Osama bin Laden's legions being put through their paces in his Afghan camps. In both the Khawaja and Toronto cases, the camps attended could easily be derided as amateur (the Pakistani camp was disappointingly short of ammo for its one RPG; the Toronto cell had only one 9 mm. handgun to share among its members, who were instructed in gun safety measures by the omni-present Mubin Shaikh). Because amateur, they seem hard to take seriously. But this is to misunderstand their purpose. These camps are less about hard-core paramilitary training and more about bonding and indoctrination. They are the starting part of a journey for the jihadist warrior-to-be.

the rest can be found here.

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