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On target? Stephen Harper, the CN Tower and Ottawa's Peace Tower among the targets listed in a bizarre, frightening scheme by a group of crazed extremists plotting a bigger attack than Oklahoma City.

The Shocking announcement that 17 Canadian citizens were arrested on charges of terrorist activities has certainly sparked an ongoing media maelstrom.

From the first police news conference held on June 3, the statistics provided were staggering, and the list of intended targets was frightening. As the accused terrorists were arraigned in court hearings last week, the allegations levelled against them generated an ever-increasing sense of drama.

You've got to admit it is a pretty scary scenario--imagine terrified Canadians watching the CN Tower plunge into Lake Ontario, witnessing smoke billowing from the crater of what used to be the Peace Tower and viewing a crazed Islamic extremist brandishing Stephen Harper's severed head live on the CBC.

So how close did we come to realizing this doomsday scenario? Let's recap the evidence tabled to date. According to the police spokesman, there were more than 400 officers and agents from at least five different security forces (RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, Toronto Police, CSIS and Communications Security Establishment) monitoring the activities of the 17 accused for the past several months. In fact, three tons of ammonium nitrate were sold to the would-be terrorists as part of an RCMP sting operation. To ensure this plan could not possibly backfire, the substance delivered was just an inert substitute.

Raids also netted 169 rounds of ammunition. While this may sound like a lot of bullets, it's less than 10 per person. Not exactly the arsenal one would expect when mounting two major shoot-'em-up assaults, considering an average police officer carries a minimum of 46 rounds on patrol. The alleged camp north of Toronto was purportedly used to conduct "terror training" in the form of paintball games. As evidence of this terrorist cell's ability to remain discreet, it should be noted that startled locals quickly reported to authorities the unusual appearance of these camouflage-clad strangers carrying heavy duffle bags.

Once the identities of the adults accused were released to the public (five suspects are under the age of 18), it was learned that one of the alleged terrorists had previous Canadian military training. Steven Chand spent less than four years in the Royal Regiment of Canada, a Toronto military unit where he completed his basic training as a rifleman. While there was some wild speculation by misguided media pundits that Chand would be a considerable terrorist threat as a result of this experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

All military weapons-handling courses are strictly controlled and monitored, and throughout his brief, sporadic attendance at the armoury, Chand would have acquired only rudimentary skills with assault rifles and basic infantry tactics. At no time would Chand have been trained in the use of homemade explosives or how to assemble the detonators necessary to construct a truck bomb.

As for the plot to cut off the prime minister's head, the terrorists had but a single combat knife. It seems the beheading scheme was still so speculative that a reconnaissance trip to Ottawa had not yet been attempted because they weren't sure how to get there.

It's reassuring to know the Canadian al-Qaeda are not the brightest bunch, and that our security system worked the way it's supposed to. Harper didn't lose his head, and we shouldn't lose ours. Let's keep the "Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" in proper perspective.

Scott Taylor

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Author:Taylor, Scott
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:554
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