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Canada Muslims condemn alleged bomb plot

Lawyer calls charges 'vague' as 12 adults, 5 youths await hearings

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TORONTO, Ontario (CNN) -- Canadian Muslim organizations have condemned an alleged plot to bomb Toronto-area buildings, while a lawyer for one of the 17 suspects in custody called the charges against them "vague."

"We are committed to the safety and security of Canada and Canadians," said Mohammad Alam, president of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto. "We of all Canadians are shocked at the recent arrests of young Muslim men and teenagers and the very serious allegation against them."

Canadian authorities rounded up a group of 17 Muslim men and boys suspected of plotting to bomb major buildings in the Toronto area, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Saturday. Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said the group posed "a real and serious threat."

Luc Portelance, assistant director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the suspects were followers of "a violent ideology inspired by al Qaeda."

And McDonell said they had taken steps to acquire three tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

But while Canadian Muslims may be angry about issues like the war in Iraq or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "That should not be an excuse for any hateful extreme or violent behavior by any person or group," Alam said.

And Sheik Husain Patel, a spokesman for the Canadian Council of Muslim Theologians, said the allegations against the young men represented "anti-Islamic behavior" if true.

"Any threat to Canada poses a threat to Muslims in Canada as well," he said. "Thus, we are relieved that the alleged plans to attack targets in Canada were thwarted."

But Toronto police said they have increased patrols around mosques in the city after a northwest Toronto Islamic center was vandalized in what Police Chief William Blair called a possible hate crime.

"There is no accusation being made against the Muslim community. Our accusations pertain only to the actions of 17 young men," Blair said.

He said Toronto was one of the world's most diverse cities, where people of all cultures, religions and languages lived together peacefully, "and we should not let anyone take that peace prosperity and respect away from us."

Patel said the accused were innocent until proven guilty -- "But if they are proven guilty after being given due process, then this is a wake-up call -- especially for Muslim leaders -- that more must be done to make sure that our children do not get involved in activities that are contrary to the teachings of Islam."

He said Muslim leaders had to emphasize to their followers that "You cannot justify even a legal goal by using illegal means."

All 17 have been charged under Canadian anti-terrorism laws, Mountie spokeswoman Michelle Paradis said, but details of the charges were not likely to be made public until a bail hearing Tuesday in Brampton, Ontorio.

Fifteen of the 17 were being held in Brampton, Paradis said. She did not disclose the locations of the other two suspects, but said they were likely to appear in court on Wednesday. (Full list of adult suspects)

Attorney Rocco Galati, who is representing two of the suspects, told CNN both men were charged with assisting in the procurement of property to facilitate terrorist activity.

"These are absolutely vague, oblique charges," he said. "Not one single shred of evidence was presented to the clients in court and they won't release the alleged information to us."

Galati identified his clients as Ahmad Ghany, 22, and Abdel Halim, 30. He said Ghany was a Canadian-born graduate of McMaster University with no criminal history.

And he questioned the timing of the arrests, saying they came one week before the Canadian supreme court was to hear a case involving how evidence was heard in anti-terrorism cases.

'Political move'

"I believe these men are being rounded up as part of a political move to affect the judges," Galati said.

Another attorney, Answer Farooq, said he was representing five of the suspects and had met with them briefly, but had not yet seen detailed evidence or charges.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said some of the suspects in Canada, as well as the two arrested in the United States, had communications with suspected terrorists overseas -- including some taken into custody last fall in Britain. The counterterrorism official confirmed information originally reported by the Los Angeles Times.

And FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said Saturday that some of the Canadian suspects had been in contact with two men arrested in Georgia who were accused of videotaping buildings in Washington, including the Capitol and the World Bank headquarters. But Kolko said, "There is no current outstanding threat to any targets on U.S. soil emanating from this case."

A senior Canadian official told CNN the suspects were a self-contained group, connected through the Internet. (Watch police chief describe how suspects got bomb materials -- 0:36)

The government had been watching the suspects for a while and decided to move ahead with arrests because of concerns they might be close to staging attacks, the official said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Saturday the target of the alleged terror plot "was Canada -- Canadian institutions, the Canadian economy, the Canadian people.

"As at other times in our history, we are a target, because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values -- values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law." (Watch Canada's prime minister explain why his country was targeted -- 1:24)

CNN's Kevin Bohn, Kyung Lah and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report

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