“So this is how an alleged terrorist goes hunting for new recruits in Canada: take them for dinner, chat them up at the mosque and show off your new ‘safe house’ in Toronto, all while insisting the Qur’an justifies the murder of innocent women and children.” So says Canada’s QMI Agency, in an attempt to slam-dunk the case that jihad has nothing do to with Islam. But in fact the loophole, and controversy, here revolves around the meaning of the word “innocent” — that is, the question of to whom it applies.
“Court hears of alleged terrorist recruitment drive,” by Michele Mandel, QMI Agency, February 12, 2015:
TORONTO – So this is how an alleged terrorist goes hunting for new recruits in Canada: take them for dinner, chat them up at the mosque and show off your new “safe house” in Toronto, all while insisting the Qur’an justifies the murder of innocent women and children.
Or so it appears from the testimony of undercover FBI agent Tamer el-Noury, who spent months posing as a willing accomplice to Chiheb Esseghaier, the Tunisian doctoral student now on trial with Raed Jaser on several terror-related charges including planning to derail a Toronto-bound passenger train.
After Jaser left the alleged plot on Sept. 24, 2012, because he couldn’t work with his “rash” and dogmatic friend, el-Noury said Esseghaier was anxious to find new disciples to help him carry out his “projects” from his al-Qaida trainer.
“He wanted to set up a network of believers” in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, the agent told the court, and until these cells were in place, Esseghaier was postponing his original Christmas target date for the derailment.
In Montreal, he planned to go to the local mosques to search out new recruits, el-Noury said, while in the other three cities, he already had contacts who he thought would make good mujahedeen. In late October 2012, they took a road trip to meet and have dinner with two of Esseghaier’s potential choices, a man in Ottawa and a fellow Tunisian, Ahmad Abassi, in Quebec City.
Abassi was described to him as a true jihadist who could be trusted to discuss their “sensitive” subjects. As for the Ottawa contact, they’d have to feel him out first and eventually bring him onboard.
Both dinners were uneventful, but on their way to a coffee shop in Quebec City with Abassi, el-Noury recalled Esseghaier making a dramatic comment as they passed the legislative buildings. “That would be a good place to do an operation.”
After his misjudgment of Jaser, the would-be mastermind appeared more cautious about who he wanted to bring into his alleged terror cell. “He said don’t bring them into the plot just yet — ‘Keep them close until they’re ready,'” the agent recalled. In the meantime, Esseghaier would continue to “actively recruit” others.
He had a possible catch when el-Noury returned to Montreal.
On Nov. 20, 2012, they met for dinner with “Mohammed,” a former cruise ship cook who now opened and closed the local mosque. In the past, Esseghaier had mentioned on secretly recorded audio that he wanted to find a cook able to poison meals on a military base, but it appears he wasn’t set on this guy. El-Noury said Esseghaier told him he wasn’t sure if Mohammed was “about the money or jihad.”
They next saw each other in December when Esseghaier flew to visit el-Noury in New York for a week in hopes that he could finally arrange a long-promised meeting with an American “sleeper” — an elusive operative he’d been told about by his al-Qaida trainer when he spent six weeks near the Afghanistan border in April 2012.
The jury hasn’t heard how that progressed yet, but they did learn Esseghaier gave up his Montreal apartment and agreed to move into the Toronto “safe house” el-Noury had set up on the 16th floor of a North York condo — unaware that was all been wired for sound.
On Jan. 1, 2013, intercepts picked up Esseghaier trying to reel in a Toronto recruit.
Playing coy about the details, he said there were three different plots: “One project we need a military base, one project we need a train,” he explained, while the third would occur during a “celebration.”
The timing was dependent on the green light from the Mujahideen overseas. “If we do operation separate from the brothers overseas, then we are showing to the infidels that we are not organized, that we are weak.”
Quoting the Qur’an, he said he wasn’t looking for Muslims who just pray or give charity, but those willing to wage obligatory jihad to liberate “the land from the infidel” so Sharia law could rule over all.
“You are welcome to join at any moment, OK?” Esseghaier told him. “We need brain, we need money and we need believer.”