By Mike Blanchfield - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A Canadian “dual national” living in Lebanon is believed to be involved…
OTTAWA – A Canadian “dual national” living in Lebanon is believed to be involved in the deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria last July, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Tuesday.
The individual had dual Canadian and Lebanon citizenship, but lived in Lebanon, said Baird, adding that the suspect is still at large, and it remains unclear when he was last in Canada.
“This is not a resident of Canada. It’s a dual national who I am told resides in Lebanon,” Baird told a news conference on Parliament Hill.
“I couldn’t even tell you the last time this person was in Canada.”
Bulgaria’s interior minister says the suspect, who entered the country with a Canadian passport, is believed linked to Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party that Canada has designated a terrorist organization.
“We have followed their entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hezbollah,” said Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
The attack killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver.
It’s the second time in recent weeks that a foreign government has alleged Canadians took part in terrorist attacks abroad.
Ottawa has yet to corroborate a claim by Algeria that at least one Canadian was among terrorists who staged a deadly attack on a Saharan gas plant last month.
Baird — who noted that Canada has been working alongside the Bulgarian government in recent weeks — said the co-operation from Bulgarian authorities has been markedly better than that from Algeria.
“We’ve had a more robust engagement with Bulgaria, and they provided more information,” he said. “The situation in Algeria is just completely different. We don’t even have a name, which is obviously of concern.”
Tsvetanov said one of the suspects in the bus bombing last July entered the country with a Canadian passport, while the other had an Australian passport.
Bulgaria also says Hezbollah — the Shiite militant group and political party that the Canadian government has designated a terrorist organization — was behind last July’s bombing,
“We have well-grounded reasons to suggest that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah,” said Tsvetanov. “We expect the government of Lebanon to assist in the further investigation.”
Hezbollah has denied involvement in the Bulgaria bombing.
The bomb exploded as the bus took a group of Israeli tourists from the airport to their hotel in the Black Sea resort of Burgas. The blast also killed the suspected bomber, a tall and lanky pale-skinned man wearing a baseball cap and dressed like a tourist.
Baird praised the Bulgarians for their investigative work.
“That Bulgaria has found convincing evidence of Hezbollah involvement in this carnage is, sadly, not surprising. It is yet more evidence of the depravity of Hezbollah,” he said.
Baird also took pains to align Canada with its close friend Israel in putting pressure on the European Union to join the U.S. and Canada in listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
“Obviously we’ve been encouraging the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, something that Canada did some time ago.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the bombing as “an attack on European land against a member of the European Union,” adding, “We hope the Europeans learn the proper conclusions from this about the true character of Hezbollah.”
Diane Ablonczy, Canada’s junior foreign affairs minister, said in Calgary that the federal government is still trying to gather more evidence about the alleged Canadian involvement.
“I think all Canadians are concerned when someone who has become a Canadian, who has sworn the oath of allegiance to Canada, would do things contravening Canadian values,” Ablonczy told The Canadian Press.
This latest Bulgarian incident could force the Harper government to once again confront contentious issues surrounding dual nationals, particularly those of Lebanese descent.
Under the Citizenship Act, Canadians who acquire another nationality can keep their Canadian citizenship, unless they choose to formally renounce it.
Critics questioned the government after it spent tens of millions of dollars to help about 15,000 Lebanese-Canadians flee war-ravaged Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
Israel had launched air strikes on Lebanon to attack Hezbollah in retaliation for kidnapping of its soldiers.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said the bomb in Bulgaria was detonated remotely using a circuit board that a Europol expert has analyzed. Although it was initially believed to be a suicide bombing, Wainwright said investigators believe the bomber never intended to die.
Two counterfeit U.S. driver’s licences that were found near the bombing scene were traced back to Lebanon, where they were made, Wainwright said.
He said forensic evidence, intelligence sources and patterns in past attacks all point to Hezbollah’s involvement in the blast.
“The Bulgarian authorities are making quite a strong assumption that this is the work of Hezbollah,” Wainwright said.
“From what I’ve seen of the case — from the very strong, obvious links to Lebanon, from the modus operandi of the terrorist attack and from other intelligence that we see — I think that is a reasonable assumption.”
Europol, which helps co-ordinate national police across the 27-nation EU, which includes Bulgaria, sent several specialists to help investigate the attack.
The investigators found no direct links to Iran or to any al-Qaida-affiliated terror group, Wainwright said.
— with files from The Associated Press
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
The Tory crime bill will allow lawsuits to be brought against countries that engage in and support terrorism, like Hezbollah in Lebanon
Americans David Jacobsen and Alann Steen spent years blindfolded and in chains, never knowing if they would one day walk free, or be shot and dumped in a roadside ditch.
The two were among more than 90 foreigners in Lebanon kidnapped and held hostage by Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, during the 1980s and ’90s. Jacobsen, who was director of the American University of Beirut’s medical centre, was captive for 532 days, before he was released as part of a deal that saw the U.S. facilitate the secret sale of weapons to Iran. Steen, who was teaching at Beirut University College, was locked up for almost five years. Both were threatened and abused. Guards beat Steen so badly they knocked fillings out of his teeth. He still suffers seizures as a result.
Jacobsen and Steen never lost the will to defy their captors. Once, when a guard held his gun to the back of Jacobsen’s head and told him he would die, Jacobsen said he was very busy and asked the man to come back and shoot him after lunch the following day. Steen, a former Marine, punched a guard who was beating him. He called another by the name “Asshole,” telling him it meant “Big Boss.” A third guard was “S–thead,” which Steen assured him meant “Little Boss.”
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
The Assad regime is down but not out. What happens next will have serious implications for Iran.
Six months ago, before anything and everything seemed possible in the Middle East, Syria was not an obvious candidate for regime change. Bashar al-Assad had ruled for a decade, and before him, his father Hafez had been in charge for three. The army appeared loyal to the Assad dictatorship, the secret police were everywhere, and Iran propped up the whole apparatus.
Crucially, Syrian security forces had demonstrated a lack of qualms about using deadly force against their fellow citizens. As many as 20,000 Syrians were killed in the city of Hama in 1982 when Hafez al-Assad crushed a Muslim Brotherhood revolt, levelling much of the town in the process. There was little reason to believe the army would hold its fire the next time around.
And so the Syrian revolution began slowly. The first demonstrations, early this year, were ostensibly in support of uprisings elsewhere in the region. Two hundred demonstrators, carrying placards calling for freedom and denouncing “traitors” who beat their own people, staged a peaceful sit-in outside the Libyan Embassy in Damascus in February. They were beaten and dispersed by uniformed and plainclothes police.
By Cigdem Iltan - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Beirut’s luxury hotels had only just stolen the spotlight back from bombed-out ones when…
Beirut’s luxury hotels had only just stolen the spotlight back from bombed-out ones when Arab Spring uprisings and trouble on Lebanon’s domestic front dealt a debilitating blow to the city’s tourism industry this year. After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the city’s reclamation of its hedonistic reputation and “Paris of the East” moniker was made official in 2009 when the New York Times named Beirut the top place to visit in the world. And the numbers followed: in 2010, Lebanon set a new tourism record with more than two million visitors, exceeding pre-civil-war numbers. But tourism dropped 15.5 per cent in the first four months of this year, while Beirut’s hotel business has dropped 40 per cent. Dozens of restaurants have shuttered, while many that remain open have laid off employees or cut their salaries. Business owners also blame Lebanon’s precarious political situation: after more than five months without a government, the country finally got one on June 13, albeit an administration dominated by militant group Hezbollah. The fast-deterioriating situation in neighbouring Syria is no help, either, as the country is an important land route for tourists travelling from Jordan and Turkey.
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 9:44 PM - 32 Comments
Excellent and enormously consequential reporting by the CBC… Also infuriating, depressing, and, sadly, not all that surprising.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:17 PM - 50 Comments
From Question Period this afternoon, the definitive moment of this particular moment in our collective history.
Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the faulty deal that the Prime Minister signed with the coalition of the unwilling shows why only a judicial inquiry is ever going to get to the bottom of the Afghan torture scandal. The government tried to silence diplomat Richard Colvin, who was trying to blow the whistle on torture. DND officials were sending memos begging to silence him. Why did the government reassign people who were trying to raise the issue of torture? Why did it want to stop Richard Colvin from exposing the truth and reporting on what he saw?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, three political parties worked to get a responsible resolution of this question. Unfortunately, the NDP did not, but why would we be surprised? The deputy leader of the NDP knew full well what she was saying. She made statements that could have been made by Hamas, Hezbollah or anybody else with no repercussions from that party whatsoever. I hope the leader of the NDP will come clean and actually face up to his responsibilities on that question. While I am on my feet, I also hope that he will help us pass a reform of the pardon system, which Canadians have been waiting weeks for.
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 2:07 PM - 4 Comments
The Australian reports on allegations that the Iranian embassy in Canberra spies on Iranian pro-democracy activists in Australia.
In a separate article, it discusses Tehran’s practice of funding Islamic centres and universities in Australia. The Australian National University, for example, received more than $500,000 from the Iranian government. The article also explores the presence of agents from the Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Australia. Continue…
By John Geddes - Monday, February 8, 2010 at 8:50 AM - 9 Comments
Canada’s speedy response to the Haiti crisis was no accident
The pattern in Ottawa following a humanitarian crisis has long been predictable: first the scramble to help, then the political damage-control exercise to justify delays and disarray. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, federal officials were left explaining why it took several precious days to lease a Russian aircraft to fly in a Canadian military disaster relief team. When Israel attacked Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon in 2006, other countries managed to begin evacuating their citizens while Canadian officials were trying to book ships to do the job.
But last month’s devastating earthquake in Haiti has been an entirely different story. Although some inevitable snags have been reported, experts in large-scale relief operations have generally applauded the Canadian effort. “We can see,” said Susan Johnson, director general of international operations for the Canadian Red Cross, “that we’re in a different place than we were in some previous responses on the part of Canada.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet are basking in the praise—a welcome distraction from sharp and sustained criticism of the decision to suspend Parliament until after the Winter Olympics.
The more agile reaction this time is no accident. The federal government’s capacity to coordinate operations after a major disaster abroad has been systematically overhauled in recent years, precisely because it was previously found wanting. Among the old shortcomings: no large central stockpile of emergency aid supplies, no single federal agency with the authority to pull together the response, not even a full roster of trained public servants to call in to man the phones in an operations room.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, November 27, 2009 at 10:15 AM - 93 Comments
If the issue is who has been the stauncher supporter of Israel, there’s no question that it’s the Tories, not the Grits
There are many diversions in this carnival world—canasta, bubble wrap, Donald Trump’s hair—but none so entertaining as a politician trying to persuade us the emotions he puts on for a living are real. Michael Ignatieff may profess bemusement, in interviews with the foreign press, at the “theatricality” of it all, but your average pol would never concede the point. They are like those movie co-stars who must pretend to be dating in real life.
Mind you, it doesn’t take much to persuade us in the media. We are as invested as they in the pretense that, when the Member for Diddly-squat is observed to be “shaking with rage” or “visibly distraught,” he is actually experiencing something like the named emotion. Hence the readiness of so many media outlets to advertise the Liberals’ hurt feelings at those Tory pamphlets accusing them of anti-Semitism.
They don’t actually accuse them of anything of the kind, you understand. But, next to being the subject of a vicious personal attack (“you can say what you want about me, but leave my family out of it”), there is nothing a politician lives for more than to be unjustly accused of something—even if he has to levy the charge himself. The opportunities to play the victim are too tempting. Continue…
By Jen Cutts - Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 5:20 PM - 0 Comments
Local press have dubbed Salah Ezzedine the ‘Lebanese Madoff’
Add Salah Ezzedine to the growing list of fallen financiers around the world. On Sept. 12, Lebanese authorities charged the prominent billionaire with fraud, after hundreds of millions of investors’ savings disappeared in an alleged Ponzi scheme. Ezzedine could be facing up to 15 years in prison. The amount of money that Ezzedine squandered is astonishing. More intriguing, though, is the roll of clients whom he defrauded.
Ezzedine declared bankruptcy in late August, but his troubles started in earnest after he bounced a $200,000 cheque made out to Hussein Hajj Hassan, a Hezbollah MP and adviser to the party’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. The disgraced businessman, who has been dubbed the “Lebanese Madoff” by local media, is said to have personal ties to senior leaders in the powerful Shiite movement (two of his businesses were named after Nasrallah’s late son, Hadi). Many investors—mainly Shiites from Beirut and villages in southern Lebanon—trusted their money to Ezzedine precisely because of his close ties to Hezbollah. They believed they were in good hands, and disregarded the fact that Ezzedine provided no research or paperwork to back up his promise of up to 40 per cent returns on investments in oil, metals and other commodities.
Prior to these revelations, Ezzedine, 49, was known as a charitable and religious man. After making millions in oil, he built a stadium and a mosque in his hometown near Toura. (As many as 250 of the 5,000 residents there trusted him with their savings.) Ezzedine’s scheme is a major PR embarrassment for Hezbollah, an organization that claims a reputation for honesty and integrity built in part because of its extensive social work in Lebanon. Nasrallah initially denied his party had any ofﬁcial dealings with Ezzedine. His more recent promise to set up a “crisis network” to calculate losses may suggest otherwise.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 10:40 AM - 5 Comments
The Gaza war has been a return to the bedrock policy of hitting enemies hard
An Israeli soldier’s graffiti, scrawled on the wall of a ransacked home in Gaza during the recent war, best explains the shift that has occurred regarding Israel’s strategy toward its Palestinian neighbours: “Next time it will hurt more.”
Israel began its campaign in Gaza with measurable tactical goals: ensuring that Hamas, which controls the territory, can no longer use tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt to smuggle in weapons, and stopping Hamas’s incessant rocket fire on Israeli civilians living nearby. Short of reoccupying the Gaza Strip, which Israel is unwilling to contemplate at this time, neither of these goals is completely achievable without implicit co-operation from Hamas. Now, as Israel awaits a new government, a report released this month by the Center for Strategic and International Studies confirms that the war did not change the political or military situation in Gaza. “The post-conflict situation looks strikingly like the situation before the fighting began,” it concludes.