CSIS Spy Chief Reveals Names, Links Men to Al Qaeda Group
Michelle Shephard And Tonda Maccharles, Staff Reporters
He was a founding director of a Scarborough mosque and a doting father who brought his children to the park for picnics on weekends. Now he's been named as a key commander of a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda that's fighting against the Americans in Iraq.
The allegation was made this week by Jim Judd, director of Canada's spy service.
Hassan Farhat, known as Abdul Jaber to security officials and Abu Khalid to friends, was a landed immigrant who left Canada in October 2001 to return to Iraq. He left in frustration after years of being refused Canadian citizenship, his friends say.
According to corporate records, he was one of the founding directors of Scarborough's Salaheddin Islamic Centre, which houses a school and mosque and has been closely monitored by security agencies.
Farhat's history has been somewhat sketchy.
Canadian security officials in the past have always declined comment when asked about his status.
But on Monday Judd, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, cited him by name when reporting to a Senate committee on terrorism.
Judd said the "ranks of trained terrorist fighters in Iraq are bolstered by individuals from around the world, including from Europe and Canada. For example, a Canadian citizen is believed to be a member of a group affiliated with Al Qaeda and Abdul Jabbar, a landed immigrant, is believed to be a key commander and ideologue with that same organization in Iraq."
A CSIS official confirmed yesterday that Judd was referring to Farhat and a Canadian citizen. He was linking the two to Ansar al-Islam, a group the United States said was the connection between Al Qaeda and deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The Canadian citizen referred to by Judd is Saeed Rasoul Sobrhatollah Muhammad, a 31-year-old Seneca College graduate who is alleged to be Ansar's computer expert and who has not been heard from since early 2003. His wife, a Canadian citizen, was under house arrest with her two young children in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniya in 2003. But that restriction was recently lifted, her brother-in-law said yesterday. Another brother and Canadian citizen, Masoud Rasoul, who was not mentioned by Judd, is also missing in northern Iraq and alleged to be involved with the Ansar group. The whereabouts of the three men are not known and it is not clear if they survived the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
The men met at the Salaheddin mosque, according to a relative. The present imam of that mosque says he believes his mosque is monitored by security agents. His comment came after CSIS operations director Dale Neufeld told the Senate committee the agency is monitoring mosques in Canada that it suspects are raising funds for terrorist activities and recruiting terrorist sympathizers.
CSIS spokesperson Barbara Campion emphasized yesterday that the agency is not monitoring mosques, but rather "individuals who engage in threat-related activity." But the imam of the Scarborough mosque that Farhat helped build says his mosque, and all its members, have noticed the presence of CSIS investigators for years. "Obviously one of them (monitored) is our mosque. We are watched. "We used to call them spy number one, spy number two, spy number three. We had names for them," Imam Aly Hindy said yesterday. He scoffed at the allegations of recruitment and noting that past audits of the Islamic Centre have not turned up suspicious funding.
The story about a Canadian connection to Ansar al-Islam first broke in March 2003 after an 18-year-old detained Ansar member talked to the Toronto Star's Sandro Contenta in a Sulaymaniya prison. Osman Ali said a Canadian named Abdul Jaber (also spelled Jabbar) or known as Abu Ossama, was his boss in Ansar, the group that runs a Taliban-style regime from its mountain stronghold near the border with Iran.
"He said he left Canada because the police accused him of being a member of Al Qaeda," Ali told the Star, adding he was part of a suicide-bomb cell that the former Canadian resident commanded.
His group launched attacks against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, (PUK) a secular Kurdish militia that fought for control of the same area of northeastern Iraqi turf as Ansar al-Islam.
Ali had been arrested by the PUK after he was to carry out a suicide-bombing mission but lost his nerve.
Two weeks after that interview senior PUK members confirmed that Jaber is Hassan Farhat (also spelled Farahat). They also alleged Canadian citizen Sobrhatollah Muhammad was a computer expert for the group. Then came the U.S.-led attack on the Ansar stronghold that killed more than 200 and dismantled the group, whose surviving members fled for the Iranian border. In the wake of the attack, PUK investigators found identification belonging to former North York resident Masoud Rasoul, including his driver's licence, social insurance card and a laminated card for Toronto sporting goods store Mountain Equipment Co-op.
The names again surfaced in February 2004, when Iraqi-Canadian Muayyed Nureddin returned to Canada and told reporters that he had been detained in Syria without charges, as he tried to return home to Canada. He said he was harshly interrogated and was asked the same questions by his Syrian interrogators as he had been asked before leaving Toronto. They wanted to know anything he could tell them about Farhat and the father of Masoud Rasoul and Saeed, the two now-missing Canadians.
The younger brother of the Canadian men, a recent Ryerson graduate, said yesterday he still has not heard from his brothers, and that his father has returned to Iraq to attempt to find more information. He said his brothers, who moved to Canada in 1990 and soon after were granted citizenship, had always intended to return to Iraq to raise their families.
Everybody knows that Saddam would not accommodate a member of Al-Qeada in Iraq. Saddam is a secularist and bin Laden is an Islamic Fundamentalist! They would NEVER team up!
This has got to be wrong! Everybody knows there were NO TERRORISTS in Iraq before the invasion. We terrible Americans brought the terrorists to Iraq!
This poor man just had bad timing and his decision to return to Iraq right after the September 11th attack and before the Afghanistan invasion is just a coincidence!
And just anybody who knows anything about those longitude/latitudes for the NO FLY ZONE over the Kurdish Territory KNOWS that Ansar al-Islam was under the protection of the US and the Kurds and Saddam was absolutely helpless to do anything about them!
These silly Canadians, what are they up too? Are they just trying to jump on the Bush Bandwagon now that it appears he was RIGHT?