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Friday, November 30, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Montreal bomb plot revealed in Ressam case documents

Seattle Times staff reporter

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — The arrest of terrorist Ahmed Ressam not only foiled his plan to bomb a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, but also likely foiled a plot to bomb a Jewish neighborhood in Montreal, according to documents released yesterday.

The documents provide specific and chilling details of a plan, allegedly hatched by 32-year-old Samir Ait Mohamed, to set off a truck bomb in a "predominately Jewish neighborhood" in Montreal, possibly the suburb of Outremont.

"(Mohamed) stated that the area of Laurier and Parc streets was a particularly good place for a bomb upon observing Jewish individuals walking about with long, curly sideburns," according to an affidavit filed by Seattle FBI Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries II.

Some members of a Montreal terrorist cell had taken preliminary steps toward implementing the plan, such as attempting to acquire explosives, passports and professional help from other Osama bin Laden-trained terrorists, according to the documents.

Several hundred pages of Canadian immigration documents were released yesterday in Vancouver at the behest of The Seattle Times and some Canadian media.

Two sources have confirmed that Mohamed, a one-time law student, was an informant for Canadian law-enforcement authorities and is believed to have been acting as a double agent, misleading investigators while providing details of the probe to the remaining members of a Montreal terrorist cell after Ressam's arrest.

An FBI affidavit contained in the documents acknowledges the existence of a Canadian informant.

The two Algerians were beginning preparations for an attack on a Canadian neighborhood in the summer of 1999, according to the documents.

Ressam was convicted earlier this year of plotting to bomb a U.S. target, later identified as Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam was arrested in December 1999 trying to enter the country aboard a ferry from Victoria, B.C. Customs inspectors in Port Angeles found powerful bomb-making materials in his rental car.

Ressam said he gave Mohamed the tools and electronic equipment he had used to construct the bomb-detonation timers found in his car.

In October 1999, Ressam said, Mohamed sent forged Canadian passports and money to Germany "to obtain the presence of another individual to help (him) conduct acts of terrorism inside Canada," Humphries testified in a closed-door detention hearing for Mohamed last July.

That unnamed individual, according to the documents, had trained with Ressam at a bin Laden-sponsored terrorist camp near Khalden, Afghanistan, in 1998, according to the documents.

Moreover, Mohamed had asked Ressam to help him obtain chemicals to brew a batch of an explosive called EGDN, a first cousin to nitroglycerin. More than 50 ounces of the syrupy explosive were found in Ressam's car trunk when he was arrested. In testimony in a New York trial, Ressam, who is now cooperating with federal authorities, said Mohamed had suggested putting the bomb in a gasoline truck to make a larger, more deadly blast.

Mohamed came to the attention of authorities after Ressam's arrest because his name appeared as a co-signer on a lease for a Montreal grocery store Ressam had intended to open as a front to steal credit-card numbers and identities.

Ressam intended some of the illegal proceeds from the store to be used to fund international Islamic terrorism.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted Mohamed for his alleged role in Ressam's plan to set off a powerful suitcase bomb in a Los Angeles airport terminal around the millennium. That help included allegedly obtaining a stolen handgun Ressam used in a foiled holdup at a Montreal currency exchange in August 1999. Ressam had intended to use the money to help finance his and other terrorist attacks.

Most of the allegations against Mohamed and several others swept up in an international investigation into the Montreal terrorist cell have come from Ressam, who hopes his cooperation will lead to leniency at his sentencing, scheduled in February.

Much of the information has proven credible and been corroborated by "intelligence services throughout the world," according to Humphries.

In testimony before an immigration judge, Mohamed denied all of the allegations and called Ressam a liar.

In transcripts of his detention hearing, Mohamed is alleged to have had an inside source at the Canadian passport agency who helped him obtain passports and had connections with organized crime in Canada to obtain weapons and explosives.

Ressam had asked Mohamed to help him find a "Scorpion" machine-pistol with a silencer and hand grenades to be used in robberies to fund Islamic terrorist plans.

"Ahmed Ressam solicited the help of Samir Ait Mohamed to obtain genuine Canadian passports to be used by a team of terrorists who intended to enter the United States to conduct terrorist attacks," according to the documents.

No further details were provided.

According to testimony in another Ressam-related prosecution, those passports were sought by an Algerian named Abu Zubeida, a close associate of bin Laden and the man the FBI's Humphries identified as the "emir" or leader of bin Laden's terrorist-training camps.

The month before Ressam was arrested, he and Mohamed attempted to purchase a laptop computer for Zubeida, according to the Canadian documents.

Mike Carter can be reached at 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com.

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