Ottawa: Canadian government blacklisted the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistani, a banned outfit, allegedly linking to last year’s attack to bomb Ottawa and to the attempted bombing of New York’s Times Square.
The threat of terrorism, “is real, persistent, and evolving, and we remain vigilant in confronting it,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement declaring Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) a banned terrorist organization.
The announcement gave no details of any TTP activity directed at Canada but follows a similar move last year by the United States.
The TTP made headlines in Canada following “Project Samossa” and the arrests last August of two Ottawa men and a London, Ont. physician in what the RCMP described as “real and serious” terrorism threat to the National Capital Region and Canada’s national security.
Police raids on two Ottawa addresses uncovered more than 50 circuit boards police believe were intended to remotely trigger detonators for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Also seized were what was described as a “vast quantity” of schematics, videos, drawings, instructions and electronic components for IEDs.
Police said the suspected attack was not imminent and suggested specific targets had not been selected, but that alleged ringleader Hiva Mohammed Alizadeh was arrested before originally planned to prevent him from financing an insurgent group fighting Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.
The three suspects await trial on several terrorism-related charges for crimes alleged to have been committed in Canada, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Dubai.
Days after their arrests, the Daily Times newspaper in Pakistan reported that a leader of the TTP was the suspected “brains” behind the plot. The report was based on statements from an unnamed western diplomat and two officials in the ministry of the interior.
The paper reported that Pakistani investigation into a possible connection was focused on a friend of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born American who tried unsuccessfully to detonate a car bomb at Times Square last May. US investigators said that TTP was involved in recruiting, training and financing Shahzad.
The US also accused that TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud of complicity in the murders of seven Americans at a CIA base in Afghanistan in December 2009.
Canadian police Tuesday would not comment on whether the earlier report of possible of a TTP tie with the Project Samossa suspects has been confirmed.
The group surfaced in 2007 when about 13 disparate Pakistani militant groups coalesced in the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the North West Frontier Province. Its objectives include a defensive jihad against the Pakistan Army, enforcement of Islamic Shariah law, and to battle NATO forces in nearby Afghanistan.
Last spring’s botched New York City bombing appeared to signal a new global ambition to strike the “far enemy” in North America and Western Europe. But recent infighting and assaults by the Pakistani military have the group in decline, according to Pakistan-based analysts interviewed recently by the Christian Science Monitor.
“I think for them now to reach out to the West, that’s a very unrealistic assumption,” Roshtam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan based in Peshawar, told the newspaper.
The federal designation as a “listed entity” triggered sanctions, including a freeze on assets, and makes it a crime to knowingly participate in or contribute to, directly or indirectly, any TTP activity to enhance the ability of the group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.
In proscribing the group, the federal cabinet must be satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe the TTP has knowingly participated in or facilitated terrorist activity or is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with such an entity.
“Listing is one weapon in the government’s arsenal to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our safety,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
There are currently 44 groups listed under this provision of the Criminal Code, including al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah.