TORONTO—The leader of the “Toronto 18,” an extremist Muslim group that planned to bomb landmarks in Toronto like the CN Tower and the Toronto Stock Exchange, received a life sentence on Monday for his part in the plot.
Zakaria Amara, 24, considered the group’s ringleader, was given the stiffest penalty ever handed down under Canada's anti-terrorism laws.
Amara pleaded in October guilty to charges related to planning the bombings. He received life for planning explosions likely to cause serious bodily harm or death, and nine years for participating in the activities of a terrorist group. He can seek parole in 2016.
Amara's cohort, Saad Gaya, was given a 12-year sentence but will serve half that after credit for time already served is applied. Canadian courts often give criminals double credit for time served during trial.
On Wednesday, Amin Mohamed Durani, another of the accused, admitted to taking part in training camps organized by the Toronto 18 and was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison. However, he could be released by Thursday after given credit for time served.
According to one security expert, Durrani was not part of the bomb plot but rather a secondary effort to create an al-Qaeda type cell in Toronto and scare Canada into withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
That scare was to be created by storming Parliament Hill in Ottawa and beheading politicians, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In total, four of the 18 have pleaded guilty, seven have had their charges dropped and five are awaiting their trials to begin in March. One, a youth, has been found guilty while another man's trial began last week.
The group made headlines in June 2006 after they were arrested trying to buy three tonnes of ammonium nitrate from undercover police officers—the same chemical that was used by the U.S. Terrorists who carried out the Oklahoma City bombings.
Police had been monitory the group for months with the help of two paid undercover informants. One of those informants initially asked the RCMP for $15M to work for them but settled for $3.99M. Much of the money went toward relocating him and his family as part of putting them under witness protection.