Politics

What we know and don't know about the alleged Kingston terrorist plot

A minor faces terrorism-related charges following an investigation in Kingston, Ont. We know the police are alleging the plot involved an explosive device, but not the intended target or how police uncovered the details.

1 Ontario youth charged with a terrorism-related offence

A minor, who can't be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, appeared in a Kingston courtroom Friday to face two charges related to an anti-terrorism investigation. (Laurie Foster-MacLeod sketch)

The city of Kingston, Ont., is still reeling after a young person was charged with terrorism-related offences following thousands of hours of investigation by multiple police agencies and raids on two homes. 

Here is what we know (and much of what we don't) about the case.

What is the young person actually charged with?

Police have laid two charges against the young person, who is accused of knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity and counselling another person to "deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or other lethal device ... against a place of public use with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury."

"It's interesting to me what they didn't charge [the youth] with," Leah West, who practices national security law and previously worked in the Justice Department's national security litigation and advisory group, told CBC Radio's The House.

"They didn't charge him with S. 83.2, which requires affiliation with a terrorist group to be proven. Because there's no reference to a terrorist group, that could tell me that perhaps they don't think he's associated with a group like ISIS, or they believe he may be self-radicalized or self-inspired."

What did the alleged plot entail?

​During a press conference Friday, the RCMP said it received a "credible" tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in late December 2018 that there were individuals in Kingston planning a terrorist attack, which led to the police raids at two homes in the area Thursday.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told CBC News the alleged terrorist activity involved a plan to use an explosive device, but a specific target hadn't been chosen yet.

Watch: security experts discuss Kingston investigation

Former CSIS senior strategic analyst Jessica Davis and former RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas joined Power & Politics to discuss the latest developments in the terrorism investigation in Kingston, Ontario. 9:28

The source said the person or people involved had the intent, began acquiring the potential to create an improvised explosive device and formulated a plan, but the arrests came before a target had been chosen, the source said.

"There was no specific target identified but there was an attack planned," RCMP Superintendent Peter Lambertucci told reporters.

After the arrests, the RCMP found "elements" and "trace elements" of homemade improvised explosive devices in an unspecified residence. The explosive substance was later neutralized, Lambertucci said.

What do we know about the suspect?

The identity of the accused has been withheld by police as the person is a minor and protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Because of that publication ban, little can be reported on about who the suspect is. Details about their family, which could reveal the identity of the subject, are also protected.

The person will be back in court on Monday.

A second individual, an adult male CBC News has identified as Hussam Eddin Alzahabi, was also arrested Thursday but has not been charged.

Police officers carry evidence from one of the homes in Kingston, Ont., that were raided. Two people were arrested and a minor has been charged with a terror-related offence. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Police described the relationship between Hussam Eddin Alzahabi and the person charged as an "informal friendship."

Hussam's lawyer, Mohamed El Rashidy, told CBC News that his client maintains his innocence and will continue to co-operate with the security services as the investigation unfolds. 

"He's exercising his legal rights and he cares about Canada's safety as much as the next person," said El Rashidy. "He's here studying, he's doing everything that he can to be a contributing member to society and there is no reason to malign him or treat him differently than anybody else."

Could there be more charges?

Former CSIS senior strategic analyst Jessica Davis said she wouldn't be surprised if more charges were laid against other individuals as the investigation continues.

"What we know about terrorism in Canada is that individuals rarely act alone," she told CBC's Power & Politics. 

"They generally have people who they're getting materials or financial support from or encouragement." 

What was the motivation?

Despite repeated questions during Friday's news conference, police would not comment on the ideological motivations of the people apprehended or say if they had any ties to foreign elements.

Davis said in order to lay the terrorism charge, officials would have had to have had a clear ideological link, so police are likely remaining silent because it relates to an ongoing investigation. 

"The individual would have had to been motivated by political, religious ideological considerations so they know what that is," she said. 

"Whatever the motive is could tip off other individuals."

Some of those details could come out when the case heads to trial and the Crown has to argue its case.

Was Kingston ever at risk?

While police believe an attack was considered imminent, officials maintain there was no credible threat to the people of Kingston.

RCMP officer Peter Lambertucci speaks to reporters in Kingston on Jan. 25, 2019. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

"I want to reassure the citizens of the greater Kingston, Ont., area and all Canadians that during the investigation, our primary focus was the safety and protection of the public," said Michael LeSage, a chief superintendent with the RCMP's "O" Division.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the operation has not changed the country's threat level. It remains at "medium," where it has hovered since late 2014.

"The number one sentiment that I've been hearing is that people are reassured. They feel that law enforcement has done a good job and are on top of the situation," added Mayor Bryan Paterson.

Why is FINTRAC involved?

The RCMP said they were supported by both Kingston police and FBI officers with support from the Ontario Provincial Police, Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

That last agency stood out to some national security watchers.

As Canada's financial intelligence wing, FINTRAC's job is to detect, prevent and try to stop money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

It's unclear at this time what role they played.

"The only reason that drew it to my mind would be if they were transferring money to an area that was flagged or receiving money that was flagged from an area that was of concern to FINTRAC or the banks," said West.

West also pointed to CBSA's shout-out in this probe as interesting, but it's unclear what role they played.

Again, more details about the scope of the investigation are likely to trickle out in court as both sides build their arguments. 

Leah West discusses what the details of the investigation reveal. 9:43

About the Author

Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. She can be reached at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca or @cattunneyCBC.

With files from the CBC's Philip Ling, Chris Hall, JP Tasker