Police find buyer of potential bomb-making fertilizer, say no terror threat

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO — Toronto police recovered a large amount of potential bomb-making fertilizer Wednesday night and said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the purchase at a store not far from where the G20 summit will be held.

Police said the purchaser contacted the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team shortly after it released a composite sketch of the man to the public.

“The ammonium nitrate has been recovered from two addresses in Toronto,” police said in a new release.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the purchase and they did not expect to lay charges.

Authorities had earlier called the purchase suspicious.

“The individual who made the purchase falsely misrepresented himself as making the purchase on behalf of a local grower,” Insp. Gord Sneddon said earlier Wednesday at a news conference.

The man, believed to be in his late 50s or early 60s, bought the ammonium nitrate in the mid-afternoon of May 26 at a farm-supply store in Lincoln, Ont., about 100 kilometres from Toronto.

Store workers reported the purchase to regional police on May 31.

They described the buyer as short and stocky, with missing fingers. They said he walked with a limp, had brown unkempt hair, and talked with a strong accent.

Along with the potential for bomb making, police had speculated about the purchase possibly being related to a marijuana grow-op.

Sneddon refused to confirm exactly how much fertilizer was bought from Vineland Growers, saying only it was a “large quantity” but that it would not service a large farm.

Earlier reports said the man drove off with 60 25-kilogram bags — a total of 1,500 kilograms.

While ammonium nitrate is a legitimate agricultural fertilizer, it has also become a substance of choice for terrorists, since it is readily available and can be converted into an explosive.

Timothy McVeigh used an ammonium nitrate bomb to kill 160 people at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

More recently, several Canadians have been convicted of terrorism-related offences for planning to build fertilizer bombs, while insurgents in Afghanistan use them to deadly effect against coalition forces.

Regulations require sellers to identify people buying ammonium nitrate. Why that apparently didn’t happen in this case was not immediately clear.

“Not every effort that should have been taken (to identify the buyer) was taken,” Sneddon said.

A few months ago, police believed two tonnes of fertilizer had disappeared before the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

It turned out to have been a counting error.

Geographic location: TORONTO, Lincoln, Oklahoma City Afghanistan Vancouver

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