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The Khadr effect On his journey from young Canadian immigrant to al-Qaeda martyr, Ahmed Said KhadrÕs reach touched nearly everyone under investigation in Canada for terrorism. COLIN FREEZE draws the connections

On his journey from young Canadian immigrant to al-Qaeda martyr, Ahmed Said KhadrÕs reach touched nearly everyone under investigation in Canada for terrorism. COLIN FREEZE draws the connections

A close friendship with OSAMA BIN LADEN, a brief arrest for possible involvement in a 1995 BOMB PLOT and concern that he was diverting Canadian-raised FUNDS to AL-QAEDA, fostered SUSPICION

Ahmed Said Khadr haunts many still.

Killed two years ago by Pakistani authorities, the man known by al-Qaeda operatives as al-Kanadi (the Canadian) has left a legacy of jailed relatives and "associates."

He was Canada's prime terrorism suspect by the time he was blown up by a helicopter gunship on Oct. 2, 2003. Much about his activities remains unknown, but one sure thing is that his name crops up in virtually every Canadian counterterrorism case.

Mr. Khadr was not always destined for controversy. The Egyptian-born engineer with fundamentalist leanings came to Canada in the 1970s in his late 20s and found computer-science work at Bell Canada in Ottawa.

Like many Arabs, he was outraged by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the 1980s he upended his comfortable life to perform charity work for Muslim orphans overseas.

Within years, accounts of altruism were eclipsed by indications of infamy. A close friendship with Osama bin Laden, a brief arrest for possible involvement in a 1995 bomb plot and concern that he was diverting Canadian-raised funds to al-Qaeda, fostered a lot of the suspicion -- and that suspicion spread to Muslims in Canada with whom he had contact.

Today, many current and former terrorism suspects complain they have been wrongly jailed after having only fleeting contact with Mr. Khadr -- a shared car ride down Highway 401, a stay at his in-laws' house in Toronto, or a random encounter with him in Afghanistan.

Continuing investigations and national security preclude the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP from saying much on these cases, but a review of the available documents indicates that investigators have used associations with Mr. Khadr as a springboard to investigate others.

Canadian judges and the wider public still struggle with many of these cases. Five Muslim immigrants remain jailed as security threats to Canada, most of them believed to have at least some sort of connection to Mr. Khadr. Lengthy detentions have not settled the question of whether they will be deported to countries where they may face torture or whether it is safe to set them free.

Associations with Mr. Khadr also fed into an inconclusive 2001 criminal investigation known as Project O Canada. Though the main targets and more peripheral figures were never charged at home, they did end up being jailed in brutal Middle East prisons during travels abroad.

Some of these men say their interrogators asked them questions about Mr. Khadr. Since being allowed to return to Canada, the men have complained of being tortured abroad, and of being presumed guilty through mere association.

Mr. Khadr's Afghan-raised sons have fared even worse. One has disappeared in Pakistan; another was crippled in the battle that killed his father; a third remains detained by the United States with other suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, accused of killing a U.S. soldier.

Only Abdurahman, the 22-year-old who went public with his accounts of being "the black sheep" of an al-Qaeda family, has emerged relatively unscathed.

Canada has definitely felt the Khadr effect.

The Khadr children have brought several cases to the courts, alleging various violations of their rights, even winning on occasion.

In the mosques, imams who knew Mr. Khadr struggle to reconcile the image of an al-Qaeda henchman with that of a passionate Muslim who could bring himself to tears when he told harrowing stories about war-wounded widows and orphans during his frequent fundraising trips back to Canada.

And in Ottawa, the family name has become something of a curse word, uttered through gritted teeth by Mounties and CSIS officials to remind politicians of the "potential for embarrassment" that exists, should they aggressively lobby to protect the rights of Canadians detained abroad.

*****

1970s: A young Egyptian engineer named Ahmed Said Khadr marries Palestinian refugee Maha Elsamnah shortly after both immigrate to Ottawa, where they start a family. They also get Canadian citizenship, which will eventually be conferred to each of their six children.

1980s: Mr. Khadr quits his job at Bell Canada, moving abroad to help Muslim refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. "They've driven the Afghan villagers out of the mountains or simply killed them, using massive attacks by medium and heavy bombers, napalm, strafing and poison gas," he tells a Canadian newspaper. Mr. Khadr frequently returns to Canada to raise funds for refugee orphans, building a camp in Pakistan called Hope Village. While abroad, he finds a kindred spirit in a privileged Saudi warrior also drawn to resisting the Soviets - Osama bin Laden.

1992: A landmine blast in Kabul hobbles Mr. Khadr; he returns to Canada for treatment, covered by Ontario health insurance.

December 1995: Mr. Khadr is arrested in Pakistan, caught with $30,000 (U.S.) and accused of "aiding and abetting terrorists" in a deadly Egyptian embassy bombing in Islamabad. "I'm Canadian. I am a 100 per cent innocent person," he tells reporters from a hospital bed, where he's held under police guard during a hunger strike. He adds: "The last hope I have is [then prime minister Jean] Chrétien coming." A month later, Mr. Chrétien raises Mr. Khadr's case as he meets Pakistan's prime minister on a trade mission. He asks his counterpart to "make sure respect of the laws and due process would be followed." Mr. Chrétien also meets the six Khadr children, telling the eldest he hopes the child grows up to be a Canadian prime minister. Mr. Khadr is let go weeks later. Within months, he starts to re-enroll his sons in Islamist military training camps in Afghanistan.

1998: The Soviets defeated, Osama bin Laden changes tactics: Muslims, he decrees, must take the battle to Jewish and American infidels, wherever they may be found. Canadian spies start asking a lot more questions about Mr. Khadr, stepping up efforts to identify men with whom he is associating during his frequent fundraising trips back to Canada.

n March 1999: Egyptian refugee claimant Mahmoud Jaballah is arrested in Toronto and declared a threat to national security.

z CONNECTION: He is alleged to know a variety of Egyptians with terrorism links - and while Mr. Khadr was not listed, courts have recently heard that his family knew the Khadrs while living in Pakistan.

z STATUS: Jailed in Canada for six years, fighting deportation.

n June 2000: Egyptian refugee claimant Mohammed Zeki Mahjoub is declared a threat to Canadian national security and arrested in Toronto.

z CONNECTION: CSIS says Mr. Mahjoub is a threat, partly because he stayed with Mr. Khadr's in-laws shortly after arriving in Toronto. Mostly though, CSIS has a problem with the fact that he ran a large Sudanese farming operation for Mr. bin Laden in the early 1990s.

z STATUS: Jailed in Canada for five years, fighting deportation. Recently ended a 10-week hunger strike that nearly killed him.

Sept. 11, 2001: Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and the Pentagon kill 3,000. No longer content to simply watch Islamic extremists, CSIS hands over its top targets to the RCMP for potential criminal prosecution.

n Nov. 2001: Toronto truck driver Ahmad El Maati, a Canadian citizen born in Kuwait, is arrested in Syria, a country he journeys to after being closely watched and followed in Canada.

z CONNECTION: Though he spent much of the 1990s in Afghanistan, Mr. El Maati says he barely knew Mr. Khadr. Around this time, papers belonging to Mr. El Maati's brother, Amer, are discovered in a reputed al-Qaeda safe house in Kabul.

z STATUS: Free in Canada after two years in jail in the Middle East. Complains of wrongful investigation by the RCMP and of being tortured in Syria.

n Nov. 2001: Abdurahman Khadr, 19, is arrested in Kabul as the rest of his family manages to flee the U.S. invasion. Americans interrogate him, he says, and get some help from visiting RCMP members, all asking about Arabs in Afghanistan. "The Canadians asked me information mainly, mainly about other Canadians. The information was about Jaballah ..... Mahjoub, about Amer El Maati, Ahmad El Maati, my father, any Canadian," he later recalls. New documents also suggest he is shown a picture of Ottawa computer engineer Maher Arar, whom he fails to recognize.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's second son.

z STATUS: Free in Canada after spending a year in custody in Afghanistan and Cuba and working with U.S. intelligence. Fighting a court battle to get a passport, after Ottawa denied him the document, contending he is a security risk. Abdurahman - always a fan of Hollywood movies - is reportedly in talks with the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda screenwriter, Keir Pearson, in hopes of telling the Khadr family story on the big screen.

n April 2002: Ottawa computer engineer Abdullah Almalki, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, is arrested in Damascus after emerging as a "main target" of an RCMP probe.z CONNECTION: He says he has only a tangential Khadr connection - briefly working with him in Pakistan to help Afghan refugees in the early 1990s.z STATUS: Free in Canada after two years in a Syrian jail. Complains of wrongful investigation by the RCMP and of torture by the Syrians.

n July 2002: Family favourite Omar Khadr, 14, fights in a deadly battle against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The sole survivor of a group of militants, he's alleged to have killed a U.S. soldier with a grenade before being shot three times.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's third son.

z STATUS: On a hunger strike in Guanatanamo Bay, a U.S.-run military prison in Cuba for "enemy combatants." Omar has been the camp's youngest prisoner for three years.

n Dec. 2002: Algerian refugee claimant Mohamed Harkat is arrested in Ottawa and declared a threat to national security.z CONNECTION: CSIS accuses him of hobnobbing with al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan and Afghanistan - and notes he was spotted in 1995 sharing a car ride from Ottawa to Toronto with Mr. Khadr.z STATUS: Still in jail, fighting deportation.

Oct. 2003: The Pakistan Army kills Mr. Khadr, 57, and seven other militants hiding out in the tribal regions. A few months later, Al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, releases a tape eulogizing "brother martyr Aimed Said Khadr." He says the veteran militant still had some fight left in him, describing him as "one of thousands of Arab supporters whose blood was spilled in every valley and mountain in Afghanistan and whom the Pakistani government, in order to serve America and India, prevented from going to Kashmir."

n Oct. 2003: Karim Khadr, 13, is crippled in the attack. He says soldiers shot him in the back as he watched the battle from afar.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's youngest son.

z STATUS: Attending school in Toronto after returning with his mother.

n Feb. 2004: Abdullah Khadr, 24, is wrongly identified by the Taliban as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's first-born son.

z STATUS: Unknown. Believed captured by Pakistani authorities.

n Feb. 2004: Egyptian-Canadian charity worker Helmy Elsherief is jailed in Egypt for three weeks while en route to the Haj from Canada. He says he is asked about other Canadians before being let go.

z CONNECTION: He worked closely with Mr. Khadr on Afghan charity projects.

z STATUS: Free in Canada.

March, 2004: Canadians are stunned by a CBC documentary about the Khadr family's direct links to Osama bin Laden. Breaking the family's silence, the Khadr children describe growing up in a Jalalabad compound, where they once played volleyball against the world's most notorious fugitive. Abdurahman describes how he became a training camp dropout, how his failure to become a suicide bomber greatly disappointed his father. "I would tell him, you know what, being Osama is not going to heaven, okay? Being Osama is not being, you know, like a movie star."

n April 2004: Maha Elsamnah returns to Canada with her wounded youngest son in a wheelchair. "I have no connection to al-Qaeda," she says at the airport.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's wife.

z STATUS: Raising what remains of her family in Toronto.

n Feb. 2005: Zaynab Khadr, 25, returns to Canada from Pakistan. The RCMP seizes her belongings at the airport, saying that her computers, tapes and CDs contain materials that could assist "extremist recruitment efforts" or "be manipulated into propaganda." In a search warrant, the Mounties also accuse her of having helped her father divert money raised in Canada to training camps in Afghanistan.

z CONNECTION: Mr. Khadr's eldest daughter.

z STATUS: Waging a court battle to get her property back.

n Aug. 2005: A Federal Court judge orders CSIS to stop interrogating Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay because the camp's human-rights violations fail to conform with Canadian values.

z Canadian officials at the inquiry into the detention of Maher Arar (a computer engineer who says he did not know Mr. Khadr, and only fleetingly knew people who did) discuss "the Khadr effect." They concur that the widespread chill and embarrassment caused by the prime minister's intervention for Mr. Khadr a decade earlier still ripples through the Canadian government and its counterterrorism cases today.

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