Canadian connection in alleged N.Y. bomb plot
A suspect was questioned in Canada in connection with an alleged plot to bomb tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey and flood New York's financial district, CBC News has learned.
AnFBI official in Washington told CBC News that one suspect in the plot was questioned in Canada. But the Canadian Press reported that the suspect was released because there wasn't enough evidence to hold him beyond the period of interrogation.
Another suspect, a 31-year-old Lebanese man who was arrested in Lebanon, may have spent time in Canada.
Lebanese police confirmed Friday that Assem Hammoud confessed to being the mastermind of the alleged plot andclaimed allegiance to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Radio-Canada, the CBC's French-language network, reports that he told police about several other people in Quebec.
In Beirut, the mother of Hammoudsaid he hasa Canadian girlfriend, whom he has visited in Canada.
Butshe said hersonhad no political connections, and certainly not withal-Qaeda.
Police also say several other suspects are in custody in six countries, but won't say more because they haven't been charged.
FBI spokesman Mark Mershon would only say six foreign governments on three continents were assisting in the investigation.
"We're not prepared to discuss the levels of co-operation," he said.
Another Canadian connection in the plot involved Canadian intelligence, who, according to ABC News, helped track suspects through internet chat rooms.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said that any comment on a Canadian connection made now might jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
Securityofficials confirmed the investigation Friday after a New York newspaper reported earlier that morning thatFBI agents had disrupted a plot in its early stages to blow up the Holland Tunnel, one of several tunnels connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. The goal was to cause havocand flood New York's financial district.
But officials said the group had specifically mentioned only the PATH train tunnels that commuters travel through on their way to New York and New Jersey.
Mershon wouldn't confirm the Holland Tunnel was the alleged target.
"This is a plot that would have involved martyrdom, explosives and certain of the tubes [tunnels] that connect New Jersey with Lower Manhattan," said Mershon. "We have, what we believe, is the real deal."
Mershon said the FBI believes five other people are "principal players" in the alleged plot, butnone are in the United States.
FBI agents and intelligence agencies from around the world had been monitoring the group for a year,Mershon said.
The FBI said it believes the suspects were about to move into a new phase of their plan, including the survey oftargets and acquisition ofmaterials needed to carry out the attack, which was to take place in October or November 2006.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reassured city residents that they should go about their daily lives.
"There is not one shred of evidence this has gone beyond theplanning stage," said Bloomberg.
Mershon criticized the "unknown individual" who leaked the story tothe Daily News, saying it "greatly complicated" what had been smooth relationships with foreign intelligence services.
"This was not the date we planned to unfold this investigation," he said.
An anonymous counterterrorism source told the Daily News that Jordanian associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, recently killed in a U.S. air strike in Iraq, had pledged financial and tactical support for the plot.
With files from Associated Press and Canadian Press