Cold Terror is a terrifying book and I am afraid for the safety of its author Stewart Bell, Canada's leading reporter on national security and terrorism. The powerful Canadian Islamic Congress has labelled Bell "anti-Islamic" and he has survived numerous threats from secret terror networks operating inside Canada. His timely and well-researched investigation is a brave warning to Canada and indeed the Western world about "the terrorists who use Canada as a base; the carnage they cause around the world; and the political leaders in Ottawa who let it all happen".
Bell takes us inside most of the world's deadliest terrorist organisations: the Armenian and Sikh groups of the 1980s, the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. He follows their trails to Sri Lanka, Israel and Afghanistan, to report the carnage caused by Canadian-based terrorism.
These groups have perpetrated a gruesome list of atrocities: the Air India bombing in 1985; the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991; the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993; the assassination of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993; the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad in 1995; the blasts at the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998; and the horrific nightclub bombing in Bali in 2002. Bell's evidence proves that terrorist trails increasingly start and finish in Canada, as terrorists take advantage of Canada's liberal immigration and refugee policies.
His first two chapters deal with the domestic wars that characterised the early days of Canadian terrorism. Chapter one discusses the extraordinary stories of two Canadian Sikhs, Talwinder Singh Parmar and Ajaib Singh Bagri, accused of organising the Air India disaster in which 329 people died: a death toll equal (as a proportion of Canada's population) to that of "9/11". Chapter two deals with Manickavasagam Suresh, the notorious Canadian leader of the Tamil Tigers, the group responsible for the assassinations of Gandhi and Premadasa.
The next chapter focuses on Hezbollah. Here Bell mentions another unnerving story of how Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammad (known as "Triple M"), a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, slipped through the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) security barrier and settled in Ontario with his family despite having taken part in an assault on an El Al passenger plane in Athens in 1968.
The rest of the book deals with the rise of the Canadian al-Qaeda network.
This is the most frightening part, including details of Fateh Kamel and his organisation of a base for Algerian extremists in Montreal, and Kassem Daher, now in a Lebanese prison on suspected terrorism charges, a theatre owner in western Canada who seems to be linked to the Egyptian branch of the Canadian al-Qaeda. Then there is Ahmed Said Khadr, who exploited the Canadian International Development Agency, the humanitarian aid arm of the Canadian Government, to raise money for al-Qaeda's jihad in the mid-1990s.
Canada's then Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, was the key influence on the decision of the Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to free Khadr, who was imprisoned in Pakistan, in 1996, without charges. Canada agreed Khadr's safe return to Toronto, where he continued to collaborate with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan until he was killed by the Pakistani army last October.
In a final chapter, "White meat" (referring to the al-Qaeda code name for Americans), Bell writes of brothers Mohammed and Abdulrahman Jabarah, who operated a radical al-Qaeda support group out of St Catherines, Ontario.
Abdulrahman was killed in 2003 by Saudi Arabian security authorities after his group's bombing of a housing complex in Riyadh. But Mohammed, brought back to Canada in 2002 by CSIS agents, decided to give full details of al-Qaeda's Canadian operation rather than face criminal charges for terrorism, extradition and a possible lengthy prison term. Thus, "one of the most dangerous terrorists to emerge from Canada became one of its most valuable contributions to the war on terrorism".
Canada has a new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, who was re-elected by the narrowest of margins this summer. He succeeds Chretien, whom Bell regards as a naive liberal with little understanding of the terrorist threat. But Martin's own record is far from unblemished. As Finance Minister, writes Bell, he "oversaw heavy cuts to Canada's military and intelligence capabilities and... when he was asked to defend his Government's approach to counterterrorism, he repeatedly shut down the debate by calling his critics racists". In 2000, Martin attended a dinner for the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils in Toronto despite being plainly warned by the CSIS that Fact was a Tamil Tiger front.
The Martin Government's plan is "to fight al-Qaeda with humanitarian aid".
Chretien argued for this at the United Nations as recently as September 2003, claiming the world had to "reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor. Global security and stability today depend on greater equity."
This, Bell points out, is an absurd response to Islamist fanaticism, which is not about poverty. "Osama bin Laden is not poor. He is worth $300 million... He could have spent it on the poor. Instead, he used it to finance jihad. The 9/11 hijackers were middle class, university-educated professionals. They were not short of cash, nor were they motivated by poverty. They were driven by hatred and the twisted ideology of radical terrorism."
Bell's conclusion is a serious warning to those nations that are most open and least attuned to the terrorist threat. He feels they will become havens, as Canada has, if they "take in immigrants and refugees from all over the world - many of them from zones of conflict". A Canadian police intelligence report, concerned with the recruitment of terrorists from within Canadian ethnic communities, alarmingly notes that "17 per cent of Canada's population is foreign born, as opposed to 9 per cent in the US".
Canada, says Bell bluntly, "has tried to smother terrorism with kindness... The mistakes that contributed to (the) made-in-Canada bombing by militant Sikhs in British Columbia (in the 1980s) are now being repeated with the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda".
Cold Terror is a chilling indictment of the Canadian Government's policies and its irresponsible attitude towards harbouring terrorist organisations - and a demand for immediate action. Every responsible citizen of Canada, the US, the UK and other Western countries should read this book. In the UK, the lenient Government immigration policy pursued until recently may already have created a safe haven for terrorists.
Christopher Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka. He lived in Canada for more than 30 years from 1956 before moving to the UK. He is a council member of the Royal Geographical Society.
Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the World
Author - Stewart Bell
Publisher - Wiley
Pages - 243
Price - £16.99
ISBN - 0 470 83463 3