The ammonium nitrate was delivered. The targets were set. After two years of a stealthily assembled counterterrorism web of surveillance, wiretaps and informants, police were ready to swoop down.
The operation was so complex and tightly shrouded that everyone involved -- including all the roughly 400 police officers who scooped up the 17 suspected Islamic extremists Friday and Saturday -- had to sign the Official Secrets Act, pledging total discretion.
Targets of the alleged plot included political and economic symbols such as the Parliament Buildings and Peace Tower in Ottawa, along with the CN Tower and the TSE.
But long before the sensational details and spectacular arrests came the watching. Visits to certain Internet sites were observed and traced. When visitors met with some of those under surveillance, they were arrested as soon as they returned to the United States. When a group from the Toronto area visited a private recreation area in Ontario's cottage country, police appeared in force the next day and began to pore over the grounds.
And when the watching came to a head, what triggered the rapid wave of RCMP-led Toronto-area arrests was the Mounties' controlled delivery shortly before of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate in 25-kilogram bags -- gardening fertilizer that, when mixed with fuel oil, can produce a lethal bomb of the type white supremacist Timothy McVeigh used in 1995 to destroy Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah building, killing 168 people.
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