A man and a woman have been charged in an alleged al-Qaeda-inspired plot to place pressure cooker bombs at the provincial legislature in Victoria during crowded Canada Day celebrations, a scheme that B.C. Premier Christy Clark calls "profoundly shocking."
Amanda Marie Korody, believed to be about 30, and John Stewart Nuttall, 38, both of Surrey, B.C., have each been charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity and possession of an explosive substance.
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They both made a brief court appearance in Surrey, B.C., today, after they were arrested Monday. The pair are accused of building explosive devices with the "purpose of causing death or serious bodily injuries," which were placed outside the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Canada Day.
RCMP said the contents of the improvised explosive devices included nuts, bolts, nails, washers and other materials intended to kill or maim people.
Police said Korody and Nuttall, both Canadian-born citizens, were "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology," but added the incident represented a "domestic threat without international linkages."
At the press conference, police said the pair were self-radicalized and had discussed a wide variety of targets and techniques.
Police said the threat was real but at no time was the public at risk, as the threat was detected early and disrupted. Police added they were in tight control as the devices were constructed.
Suspects appear in court
Both Korody and Nuttall were arrested in Abbotsford, B.C., and appeared briefly Tuesday afternoon in court in Surrey.
Tom Morino, a lawyer who has represented Nuttall in the past, said the two are a couple.
He said he received a call from RCMP and spoke to Nuttall for about half an hour from the lockup on Monday evening. He also spoke to Korody for about 15 minutes.
Morino told The Canadian Press he had not received any information from police about the case, but said he will be involved, though he cannot represent both accused.
Morino said he represented Nuttall previously. In 2002, Nuttall pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in Victoria and was sentenced to an 18-month conditional sentence.
Morino said Nuttall is a convert to Islam, but he added that Islam and al-Qaeda "don't go hand in hand."
CBC reporter Steve Lus, who was in the Surrey courtroom where the suspects appeared, said Nuttall was tall and thin, with unprofessional-looking tattoos, an untrimmed goatee and long hair. Nuttall smiled at Korody and spoke briefly to the duty counsel assigned to the case.
Lus said that Korody had unkempt hair and bit her lips while her eyes darted around the courtroom. She repeatedly tried to make contact with Nuttall during the brief court appearance.
Korody and Nuttall are scheduled to appear in court again next Tuesday.
On the music website Reverbnation, a page that appears to belong to Nuttall has the lines for a song entitled In League With Satan.
"We are possessed by all that is evil. The death of your god we demand. We spit at the virgin you worship. And sit at Lord Satan's left hand," read the lyrics.
At a news conference in front of the legislature following the RCMP announcement, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she was informed of the "profoundly shocking" incident on Monday.
She thanked the police investigators involved, saying terrorists "will not succeed in tearing down the values that make this country strong."
"Our parliament stands strong. We are back at work today, undeterred and unafraid. A day after thousands of people gathered on these grounds to celebrate our nation's greatest day," the premier said.
Clark said British Columbians will be vigilant in the wake of the threat but won't let fear grip them.
"We will not let suspicion darken our hearts. Instead we will remain open-hearted, depending on one another, trusting each other. And we will not be seized by anger. Instead, we will continue to look toward the future of this great province with open hearts and with optimism," said Clark.
Clark told CBC's Rosemary Barton that the RCMP intervened early and made sure that the bombs were of no potential harm to anyone.
"Our security personnel here at the buildings were involved, were apprised of it as well," Clark said on Power & Politics. "The system worked — sadly, it had to work, but it did work."
CSIS, RCMP co-operation key
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the arrests were the result of close work between police and security agencies.
The investigation, dubbed Project Souvenir, was launched in February 2013 and co-ordinated by the RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, which include investigators from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Canada Border Services Agency.
"The success of this operation was due to the close collaboration of our security and law enforcement agencies, including CSIS, said Toews in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon.
"I would like to applaud the RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams — known as INSET — and all of the partners for their outstanding work on this investigation."