BRAMPTON, Canada - The ringleader of a homegrown terror plot involving 18 people that planned to set off truck bombs in front of Canada's main stock exchange and two government buildings was given a life sentence yesterday.
Zakaria Amara, 24, pleaded guilty in October. He acknowledged being a leader of the so-called Toronto 18 plot to set off bombs outside the Toronto Stock Exchange, a building housing Canada's spy agency and a military base. The goal was to scare Canada into removing its troops from Afghanistan.
The 2006 arrests of Amara and 17 others heightened fears in a country where many people thought they were relatively immune to terrorist strikes.
Judge Bruce Durno said the attack would have been the most horrific crime in Canada's history, if successful. "What this case revealed was spine-chilling," he said. "The potential for loss of life existed on a scale never before seen in Canada."
Amara stared at the floor during sentencing, then asked to address the judge. "I just want to reassure you that the promises I made [to be rehabilitated], I'll do my best," he said. Lawyer Michael Lacy said the defense was disappointed with the sentence in light of Amara's "genuine expressions of remorse and in light of his denunciation of the terrorist activity."
Prosecutors said he planned to load U-Haul trucks with explosives and detonate them by remote control. Police found he used a public library computer to learn about bomb-making.
Through a police agent, Amara tried to buy what he believed was 3 tons of ammonium nitrate - three times what was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. His personal computer had recordings of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other jihad materials.
Durno sentenced one of Amara's co-conspirators, Saad Gaya, 22, to 12 years in prison, minus 7 1/2 years' credit for pretrial custody.