Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Khawaja: The Canadian connection

Canadian software developer Mohammed Momin Khawaja has been found guilty in a trial linked to a foiled fertiliser bomb plot in Britain.

Mohammed Momin Khawaja in an undated yearbook photo

Born in Canada on 14 April 1979, of Pakistani parents
Grew up in Ottawa and studied computer programming at college
Worked as a software developer at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs but had no access to classified material

Khawaja, 29, a co-conspirator of five men jailed for life in April 2007 for a UK bomb plot linked to al-Qaeda, received a sentence of 10 years and six months. How much is known about him?

Khawaja grew up in the suburbs of Canada's capital, Ottawa, and was a mild-mannered child who enjoyed hockey.

His father, Mahboob Khawaja, is a university professor based in Saudi Arabia, who has published several works on conflict resolution in which he calls for better understanding of Islamic fundamentalism.

A software developer, Khawaja worked in the technical support department of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and had a good knowledge of electronics.

Of Pakistani origin, he became fascinated by radical Islamist politics, and its focus on conflicts in the Muslim world. He kept up to date on events in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Chechnya through the internet.

According to evidence at the Old Bailey trial of seven British men accused of a plot to bomb the UK, two of whom have been found not guilty, Khawaja travelled to Pakistan in 2003 and met members of a loose network of jihadi sympathisers - men who believed that violence was legitimate.


The other jihadis are said to have found Mr Khawaja enthusiastic and useful and welcomed the 1,800 donation he brought with him.

The Old Bailey jury heard how arrangements were made for Khawaja to attend a military-style training camp in Pakistan, run by militants. It was at this camp that relationships were cemented, the Old Bailey heard.

Following the camp, the party broke up and went its separate ways - but some of the Britons who attended returned to the UK intent on building a bomb. Khawaja's role in this plot was to help to build the detonator, the court heard.

Khawaja later travelled to the UK where he was met at Heathrow Airport by the British plot's ringleader, Omar Khyam. Unbeknown to both men, Khyam was under MI5 and police surveillance.

One of the surveillance officers told the court they had no idea who the Canadian was, or what his role was in the plot.

But as Khyam drove off with Khawaja, the officers listening in to a bug in the car heard the suspect and the Canadian discuss a remote-controlled device designed to trigger a bomb.

Khyam asked Khawaja if he had "the device" and Khawaja replied that he had a picture of it. He described it as a receiver and transmitter with an aerial requiring five volts and that it would work over a distance of up to two kilometres.

Khawaja said the device worked on a frequency which was impossible to intercept in urban areas and added that its circuitry would prevent it being hacked.

"If you have the detonator wires hooked up that will send a charge down the line and whatever you are sending it to," Khawaja told Khyam.

The pair later went to an internet cafe where they looked at photographs of detonators that Khawaja had been building at his home in Ottawa. The pictures were being stored securely on a webmail account so they could not be accessed directly from a home computer's drive.

After three days in London, Khawaja was followed back to Heathrow and his details were passed on to the Canadian authorities.

E-mails intercepted

When he arrived in Ottawa the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began monitoring his phone line and e-mails. The Old Bailey heard that in one e-mail he wrote: "Praise the most high, we get the device working."

And in a co-ordinated operation, they arrested Khawaja on 29 March 2004 and he became the first person to be charged under Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act, introduced in December 2001.

His home in Ontario was searched and the Canadian authorities said they found documents and papers sympathetic to violent jihadi courses of action.

They also said they found circuit boards and a home-made radio transmitter with a form of encryption to prevent accidental operation. This, it is alleged, was the remote control detonator for the improvised explosive device.

Mr Khawaja did not appear at the Old Bailey.

On 29 October, a judge in Ontario ruled that Khawaja had knowingly participated in the foiled plot against several British targets, including a shopping centre, nightclub and the gas network.

As well as five terrorism offences, he was also found guilty of two separate criminal charges of having worked on a device to activate a bomb detonator and possessing an explosive substance.

Khawaja had denied all seven charges related to terrorism and explosives use.

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