The arrest of Awso Peshdary and Khadar Khalib is not the first time there has been an Algonquin connection to suspected terrorist activity.
In the past, students Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a 2001 computer programming graduate, and Mohdar Abdullah, a 1999 computer studies student, attended Algonquin.
Khawaja, the first Canadian charged under the country’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws, was arrested on March 29, 2004 on terrorism-related charges. According to an April 14, 2004 article in the Algonquin Times, his arrest was connected to eight Muslim men in Britain and the seizure of a half-tonne of ammonium nitrate – a fertilizer compound previously used for bombings.
The software developer was working a shift at the Department of Foreign Affairs when he was arrested. His family initially believed his innocence and were shocked by the allegations.
“It has a whole emotional impact on the family,” Khawaja’s older brother Qasim told the Times in 2004.
Khawaja was found guilty and was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison in March 2009. He was found guilty of the 2004 plot to bomb London. According to a CBC article from 2012, he is being held at the maximum security prison in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., and the charges extended to his training at a remote Pakistani camp, according to articles from the National Post.
In 2011, Ontario’s highest court increased his sentence to life in prison with no chance of parole
for 10 years.
Another Algonquin college student, Mohdar Abdullah, had alleged participation with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York but there was not substantive evidence for a conviction.
It was alleged that he had assisted friends Khalid Almhidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi with the attacks. Abdullah, who has adamantly denied the allegations, was deported to Yemen from the United States in May 2004.
According to an L.A. Times article from July 2002, he had told them how to get social security cards and California drivers licences. Allegedly, he also phoned a Florida flight school for flight lessons.
According to an August 2004 Washington Post article, he has admitted to giving Alhazmi and Almihdhar tips on obtaining drivers licences. But only because it was his Muslim obligation to help them, coupled with their unfamiliarity with the country and difficulty with English.
Abdullah was arrested as a material witness in September 2001 and spent 32 months in U.S. jails while the FBI and Justice Department investigated his ties to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. When he was deported to Sanaa, Yemen in 2004, under armed guard, he was held in a Yemeni jail for about a month.
“I still can’t understand how this all happened to me,” Abdullah told Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen in 2004. “I had a life that was well established, and somehow they ruined it.”