They firebombed a Jewish school and left a warning there calling upon Westerners to convert to Islam. They dreamed of murdering Christians and gays, and practiced the minutiae of Islamic prayers and ablutions.
"How the Montreal Police nabbed two would-be terrorists," Tu Thanh Ha for the Globe and Mail, February 12 (thanks to Lewis):
He was a small-time hoodlum with a big chip on his shoulders, a man who spoke of Jihad, researched bomb-making techniques and looked at a nuclear plant, the Montreal Stock Exchange and a military base as possible terrorism targets.
In the end, Omar Bulphred, a 23-year-old native of Algeria, and an accomplice settled for firebombing two Jewish institutions before getting arrested after police heard them talk about abducting a gay man at random to rob him and cut his throat.
The troubling story of the two Montreal terrorist wannabes can be told following Mr. Bulphred's guilty plea on three counts of arson and two of uttering threats.
His accomplice Azim Ibragimov, 25, of Kazakh origin, had already pleaded guilty last year. [...]
Also troubling was the fact that, thanks to a job-training program from welfare authorities, Mr. Bulphred attended a trade school for the local aerospace industry.
In addition, the court heard that police found inside Mr. Bulphred's apartment, hidden within a box of Q-tips, a computer diskette with bomb-making instructions, details on how to make TNT, information about the Montreal Via Rail train station and the Gentilly II plant, Quebec's only nuclear facility....
The case began around midnight, Sept. 2, 2006, at the Skver-Toldos Orthodox Jewish Boys School in the Montreal district of Outremont.
A security camera recorded a masked man tossing a Molotov cocktail at the school. A matchbook was later recovered outside.
A letter claiming responsibility on behalf of the “Islamic Jihad” was later delivered, which warned of further attacks. “Convert to Islam. It would be better for you Westerners,” the letter added, demanding the release of 17 Muslim terror suspects arrested earlier that year in Toronto.
Ten days later, a parked Chevrolet was firebombed, apparently picked at random, and another letter was found, demanding the release of the Toronto suspects....
The Algerian-born Mr. Bulphred already had run-ins with the law.
In 2004, he was arrested for pointing a pellet pistol at the janitor of his rooming house. During his detention, jail officials found a letter in his cell ranting against Americans and Jews and stating that he was “ready to die in the name of Allah.”
Two years later, during the summer of 2006, the provincial police investigated him for stealing the cell phone of a housemate and using it to call 911 and make bogus terrorist threats. He wasn't charged for lack of evidence.
After the fire at his home, police began watching Mr. Bulphred. It ended soon because his handwriting didn't match that of the letters claiming responsibility for the firebombs. He was brought to the attention of CSIS, however.
Two months later, police found a handwriting match in one of his friends, Mr. Ibragimov, a grocery bagger of Kazakh origin.
Mr. Ibragimov was put under surveillance. At the supermarket where he worked, a new employee, Francis, befriended him.
Francis was in fact Montreal police Constable Claude Thibault. He told Mr. Ibragimov that he was a member of an anti-capitalist group.
Mr. Ibragimov in return boasted that “his buddies” had firebombed a Jewish school. “The guy who did it burned himself on the hand,” he said, before refusing to talk further about the incident....
The pair's telephones were wiretapped. A microphone was installed in Mr. Bulphred's apartment one day while he attended classes at the Aerospace Trade School of Montreal.
The conversations they heard suggest that Mr. Bulphred played a leading role with Mr. Ibragimov being a follower.
If Mr. Bulphred appeared to be a rootless, marginal character who found an outlet for his resentments in terrorist rhetoric, Mr. Ibragimov was the diffident underling.
Still living with his parents, in a non-practising household, he was heard being schooled by Mr. Bulphred in the minutiae of Muslim prayers and ablution.
During past court hearings, Mr. Ibragimov's relatives noted that the family had Jewish friends and that he was even engaged to a Jewish woman at one point.
The woman testified that he often picked her up after her dance classes at the YM-YWHA Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre in the Côte des Neiges district.
The centre would be the pair's next target. Late in the evening of April 3, on the first day of Passover, someone planted outside the centre a bomb made with two propane canisters taped together. It did minor damages.
On that day, police had interrupted their surveillance on the duo. Also, a wiretap recorded March 30 was only heard after the attack. Recorded inside Mr. Bulphred's flat, it featured clanking sounds, the two talking about bottles and the Côte des Neiges neighbourhood.
Two days later, the police tried what it called “a provocation” by announcing that it had a composite sketch for a suspect in the arson.
That night, the surveillance team saw the two leave Mr. Bulphred's apartment to throw away a bag. It contained lighters and fertilizer. The fertilizer wasn't of a type that could readily be turned into an explosive compound, Detective-Sergeant Sylvie Beauregard told the court, but she noted that Mr. Bulphred had no plants at his flat.
A few days later, on April 6, the bug in the apartment recorded the two talking about the Bal en Blanc, a big annual rave party.
Mr. Bulphred was recorded talking to his friend about stalking outside to kidnap “the first gay man who shows up,” Det.-Sgt. Beauregard testified.
She said Mr. Bulphred talked of tying up their victim and cutting his throat “like a chicken.”
She said he talked of cutting their victim in the thigh to force him to give his bank card PIN. “No one will want to lose his leg for $500,” he was recorded as saying.
The two then went out to Longue-Pointe, an army garrison near Mr. Bulphred's apartment, where Mr. Bulphred was seen videotaping the base.
Later that evening, the apartment bug picked up what sounded like an attempt to videotape a message. After one was heard saying “Wait, wait, I'm doing the focus,” the other began reading a statement to fellow Muslims.
“Take your knife and cut the throat of each Christian around you,” he said. “No pity.”
Two days later, the police arrested the two men. “It was getting too dangerous, considering the last conversation. We couldn't afford to wait,” Det.-Sgt. Beauregard testified.