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Toronto terror plot foiled -- Canada

FBI: Suspects may have had 'limited contact' with Georgia men

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Authorities detained the suspects Friday. They are expected to make a court appearance on Saturday.

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TORONTO, Ontario (CNN) -- Canadian police said on Saturday they had halted a "real and serious" terror threat in and around Toronto.

Twelve men and five youths said to have been inspired by al Qaeda were arrested in the operation involving hundreds of officers, authorities said.

The group was "planning to commit a series of terrorist attacks against solely Canadian targets in southern Ontario," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said at a news conference.

"This group took steps to acquire three tons of ammonium nitrate and other components necessary to create explosive devices," he said. (Watch police chief describe how suspects got bomb materials -- 0:36)

"To put this in context, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people took one ton of ammonium nitrate."

The detained suspects are all males, Canadian residents "from a variety of backgrounds" and followers of a "violent ideology inspired by al Qaeda," said Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations for Canadian Security Intelligence Service. (Full list of adult suspects)

The adults ranged in age from 19 to 43, and all lived in Ontario, according to Canadian police. No information was released on the youths.

The charges they face include participating in terrorist group activity such as training and recruitment; the provision of property for terrorist purposes; and the "commission of indictable offenses, including firearms and explosives in association with a terrorist group."

The targets were all in Toronto, CNN's Jeanne Meserve reported at least one source as telling her. Authorities did not release information on targets except to say they did not include the Toronto Transit Commission.

"This group posed a real and serious threat," McDonell said. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out these attacks."

U.S. link probed

Some suspects "may have had limited contact with the two people recently arrested from Georgia," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said, referring to Syed Ahmed, a 21-year-old Georgia Insitute of Technology student, and 19-year-old Ehsanul Sadequee.

Both men traveled from Atlanta to Canada in March 2005 to meet with three men who were the subjects of an FBI international terrorism investigation, an FBI agent said, according to an affidavit unsealed in April.

Ahmed told authorities that "during some of these meetings, he, Sadequee and the others discussed strategic locations in the United States suitable for a terrorist strike, to include oil refineries and military bases," the court paper said. (Full story)

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke by telephone with his counterpart, Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, on Saturday morning to discuss the latest events north of the border. (Watch Canada's prime minister explain why his country was targeted -- 1:24)

"We believe we have a strong posture at the Canadian border and we will continue to do so," said a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman, adding that no additional protective measures were being taken.

The overnight Canadian raids involved most of the police forces in the Toronto area, police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Paradis said.

Federal agencies including border and intelligence agents worked with the police under the auspices of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, Paradis said.

Such anti-terror operations in Canada are rare. It is not clear if the sweep is related to a raid in East London Friday, one of the largest there since the London transit bombings in July. That raid was carried out with the help of police and Britain's domestic spy agency, MI5. (Full story)

In March 2004 a man from Ottawa, Canada -- Mohammad Momin Khawaja -- was charged in connection with terror-related offenses that involved activities there and in London.

And Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of conspiracy to detonate a suitcase bomb at Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations, was stopped upon entering Washington state from Canada. His trunk contained explosives and timing devices.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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