My family owns a lovely cottage in the Madawaska Highlands of Ontario, not far from Algonquin Park. We go there to relax, swim, enjoy great sunsets and campfires and get away from it all. In addition, our cottage is where we have put up my hammock, strung between two birch trees. I lie in it to read, or to look up at the leaves, or, truth be told, to nap. It is heaven. As one friend told us, we have a little corner of paradise all to ourselves.
What I do not do a lot up there is think about terrorism. This part of the province is about as far from terrorism as it is possible to be. Or so one would think.
Except that it is not.
Within a short distance from our ‘little corner of paradise’ is a place called Hassanville. This ‘settlement’ belonged to a group called Muslims of America (MoA) aka Jamaat ul Fuqra (JuF), a terrorist group from Pakistan led by a man called Sheikh Galani. The MoA also had ties into Trinidad (which by the way is the country that supplied perhaps the largest number of ‘foreign fighters’ to Islamic State), ties that became important in a Canadian terrorist plot.
On this day in 1991, five black Muslim followers of JuF stood accused of conspiring to simultaneously blow up two Toronto Hindu buildings in an attempt to kill 4,500 people. Four of the members were arrested crossing into the US at Niagara Falls. When US border enforcement officers looked into their vehicle they spotted a letter with the phrase “dying as a soldier of Allah,” floor plans of a Hindu cinema and temple in Toronto, aerial photos, videotaped interiors, entry plans, bomb-making instructions and diagrams showing how to wrap explosives around natural gas lines to inflict maximum human carnage. One document led police to a Brooklyn address and a cache of two rifles, seven handguns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. The four travellers, police said, were heading to Brooklyn to pick up the weapons.
The three US terrorists were convicted of conspiring to commit mischief endangering life. Each was sentenced to 12 years and in April 2006 they were freed and deported (to Trinidad). Both Torontonian members were acquitted. As for JuF it has long been delisted as a terrorist entity by both Canada and the US. But the targeting of Hindu Canadians made perfect sense for a group that was created in Pakistan.
What is the lesson here?
This was 1991, before the first World Trade Center bombing and a decade before 9/11. What is the lesson here? That terrorists can come from anywhere, even cottage country. So much for the usefulness of ‘profiling’.
I have no idea what ever became of ‘Hassanville’ and I have ignored the urge to go for a drive to see it. Remember, my ‘piece of paradise’ is a refuge from terrorism, not a base from which to look for it.