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Today in Terrorism

‘Toronto-18’ Terrorism Plot (June 2, 2006)

On this day in 2006, Canadian police arrested 18 people in what was a plot to detonate three fertiliser bombs around Toronto.

This plot is near and dear to my heart for a good reason: I worked on the investigation as CSIS’ lead strategic terrorism analyst.

TORONTO, ONTARIO — When it comes to terrorism the stories that resonate with us are the ones where people die or are wounded. Alas, there are far too many of these in a wide swathe of countries around the world. I imagine the reason why we remember these incidents is because they result in horrific loss of life. Besides, isn’t there a journalistic saying ‘if it bleeds it leads’?

On the other hand there are many plots that fail. Some fail because the terrorists are incapable or not very bright. Others are foiled thanks to the efforts of security intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Today’s featured attack is one such case.

On June 2, 2006 police forces from around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) descended on several locations, arresting 17 people suspected of planning to detonate three one-tonne fertiliser bombs at various locations. Known as the ‘Toronto-18’ (the last member was picked up in August), the arrests were the culmination of parallel investigations managed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Their actions saved the lives of untold hundreds, or even thousands, of Canadians.

This plot is near and dear to my heart for a good reason: I worked on the investigation as CSIS’ lead strategic terrorism analyst. I followed the case from the very start and helped interpret the raw intelligence gathered from multiple sources, human and technical. I must say that it was the highlight of my career at CSIS.

In the subsequent trials, 11 were found guilty but only a few served serious jail time. All the terrorists are now free to the best of my knowledge, even the ringleaders, Zakarias Amara and Fahim Ahmad (this is based on what I heard from a source but may not be 100% accurate). Many dismissed these guys as ‘the gang that could not shoot straight’, believing that the RCMP made this to be a big plot when it was not.

Thankfully not all terrorist plots are successful due to good security and law enforcement work.

I could not be prouder of the men and women who worked to make sure those fertiliser bombs did not go off. Regardless of what the aforementioned naysayers claimed, Canadians are alive thanks to our protectors. That is the simple truth.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

2 replies on “‘Toronto-18’ Terrorism Plot (June 2, 2006)”

I remember this job well having worked on the London Bombings we had some cross over and I worked on a significant witness who was held in custody in the USA who had been in attendance at Training Camps in Quetta. I believe he gave evidence in this case in 2009/10.

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