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Canadian terrorist in prisoner exchange
Stewart Bell
January 29, 2004

Israel-Hezbollah swap: Would-be hijacker born in Beirut may eventually return to Toronto, he says

A Canadian who took part in a 1980s hijacking plot that left dozens of people dead was to be flown to Germany today as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

Fawzi Ayub, a member of an elite Hezbollah terrorist squad known as the Islamic Jihad, intends to join his wife and children in Lebanon but told Canadian consular officials he may eventually return to Toronto.

"He said at one point he may [return to Canada] but that's not in his immediate plans," Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, said yesterday.

Mr. Ayub was among 436 prisoners named on a list published by the Israel Prison Service identifying those to be freed in the swap. The vast majority are Palestinians but some two dozen are Lebanese.

In exchange, Hezbollah has agreed to hand over kidnapped Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers abducted and killed by Hezbollah in 2000.

Born in Beirut, Mr. Ayub joined the Amal militia at an early age and took up arms during the Lebanese civil war. He later joined Hezbollah, a radical Shiite Muslim organization, and was recruited for a hijacking operation in Romania.

Hezbollah assigned him and two others to hijack an Iraqi passenger plane in Bucharest in order to secure the release of prisoners being held by Baghdad. Mr. Ayub was caught by Romanian authorities and missed the plane but one of his colleagues went through with the plot. The hijacked jet crashed in the Saudi desert, killing more than 60 people.

Months later, Hezbollah was able to secure Mr. Ayub's release, apparently by bribing Romanian officials, and he came to Canada, where he had family. He claims Canadian immigration officials never asked if he had a criminal past.

Mr. Ayub became a Canadian citizen but returned to Beirut about four years ago and began training intensively for another mission, according to Israeli intelligence sources. He went to Europe and then entered Israel using a forged U.S. passport.

Israeli authorities claim he intended to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister but was arrested in Hebron by the Palestinian security services, who thought he was an Israeli agent. He was later captured by Israeli forces during a military raid in Hebron in July, 2002.

During court hearings in Tel Aviv, he admitted his ties to Hezbollah and said he was willing to accept his punishment. He told the court he was on a mission from God to help his fellow Muslims.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, was outlawed by the federal Cabinet under Canada's anti-terrorism law, but it is unclear whether Mr. Ayub could face criminal charges if he returns to Canada.

© National Post 2004