Ottawa: A Canadian trio arrested for "terrorism offenses" were in possession of bomb-making materials and at least one has links to a group fighting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, police said.
Hiva Alizadeh, 30, and Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, were arrested in police raids on their suburban Ottawa homes Wednesday morning.
They were formally charged on Thursday during brief court appearances under Canada`s anti-terrorism act with conspiring with unnamed people in Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan, as well as possessing explosive substances, and making property or financial services available to a terrorist group.
A third Canadian national, Khuram Sher, 28, of London, Ontario was also arrested on Thursday.
"Investigators have grounds to believe that Alizadeh, Ahmed and Sher are part of a domestic terrorist group operating in Canada," Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) superintendent Serge Therriault told a press conference.
"We also believe that Alizadeh is a member of, and remains in contact with, a terrorist group with links to the conflict in Afghanistan," he said.
Police said the accused were in possession of a horde of material for making improvised explosive devices, including schematics, videos, drawings, instructions, books and electrical components.
During raids on the homes of the suspects, authorities said they also seized more than 50 electronic circuit boards that could be used in remote detonators.
This "large amount of terrorist documentation and manuals" demonstrates that the suspects "intended to construct an explosive device or explosive devices for terrorist purposes," said Therriault.
Police also said they had evidence a member of the cell had received bomb-making training abroad, but they did not specify which suspect or where and when the training allegedly took place.
"There’s a growing concern about radicalization inside Canada, (about) home-grown terrorism," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews commented.
It "is a phenomena that we have seen in many Western democracies and it?s a relatively new phenomena that we must be very vigilant about," he said.
The Muslim Canadian Congress expressed "shock" at the arrests.
"The disclosure of this new terror cell is a sad reflection on the Muslim community," said congress vice president Salma Siddiqui. "Four years after the Toronto 18 terror arrests, we are back to square one."
The separate Toronto 18 group of plotters allegedly sought to purchase three tonnes of the bomb-making ingredient ammonium nitrate from undercover police officers, who had switched it with an inert substance.
The last two members of the group arrested in 2006 were found guilty in June of terrorism charges.
Nine other members of the group were previously convicted in the conspiracy, which was aimed at provoking a Canadian withdrawal from Afghanistan. Charges were dropped against seven others.
Alizadeh, Ahmed and Sher were arrested following a year-long investigation by the RCMP, Canada`s spy agency and several police forces across the country.
Raymond Boisvert, assistant director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said the intelligence that led to their arrests was provided to the RCMP.
Police said they arrested the trio this week to prevent one of the suspects from providing financial support to "terrorist counterparts" for the purchase of weapons for use against coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"This group posed a real and serious threat to the citizens of the national capital region and Canada`s national security," said Therriault.
"Our criminal investigation and arrests prevented the assembly of any bombs and the terrorist attack or attacks from being carried out."
The Toronto Star reported that Sher, a Canadian-born physician and graduate of McGill University in Montreal, had auditioned in 2008 for the television talent show "Canadian Idol."
Dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez and a pakul hat, Sher appears in a YouTube video of the audition performing Michael Jackson`s famed moonwalk and a robot dance for the judges.
Ahmed reportedly worked as an X-ray technician at an Ottawa hospital and lived with his wife and child.
Little, however, was revealed about Alizadeh.