TORONTO - A document filed at a detention hearing last week for 19 Pakistani-born students and other immigrants detained by Canadian security officials for possible ties to terrorism noted a "pattern of fraudulent document use to obtain or maintain immigrant status."
The men were detained Aug. 14 after an investigation found that one was taking flying lessons at a school near an Ontario nuclear power plant. They range in age from 18 to 33.
Government officials said there was little they could disclose about the investigation, but the four-page document drew a picture of a mysterious group that lived in spare apartments with only computers and mattresses on their floors.
The men appeared interested in explosives and in the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station near Toronto, according to the document.
There had been unexplained fires in at least two of the men's apartments, and, in police monitoring, two of the men had been seen walking outside the gates of the Pickering plant at 4:15 a.m. one day last year. The men said at the time they merely wanted to take a walk on a beach along Lake Ontario.
One of the men was training to fly at a school whose flight paths cross over the plant, the document said.
The document said the men were in contact with unidentified sources who "have access to nuclear gauges" that contain cesium 137, a radioactive material that can be used for making crude nuclear explosives.
"Based upon the structure of this group, their associations and connected events, there is a reasonable suspicion that these persons pose a threat to national security," the document said.
There seems little likelihood, however, that the group was anywhere near carrying out an attack. Senior government spokesmen played down any threat to national security. Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, the government's senior coordinator for border security and chief liaison with U.S. officials on security matters, said he did not learn of the arrests until Friday, from local media reports.
Some of the men are being held on immigration violations and others without charges. Under new anti-terrorism laws, immigrants and foreign citizens can be detained without charges for several days when a suspicion exists that national security is threatened. A closed detention hearing is expected Wednesday and Thursday.
An investigation into some members of the group by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other security forces has apparently been going on for more than a year. A police hot line received tips about the group shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.