GUILTY; Home Grown ISIS Cell Convicted of First Degree Murder

Written By John Goddard, Posted on June 25, 2024

Three assailants await sentencing in the Chicken Land shooting.

By John Goddard

It was a murder trial like no other. The crime-scene photos were X-rated, the text messages between suspects obscene, and the police work so superb that nearly every move of the defendants was accounted for.

In the end, the jury found all three men guilty in a shooting spree meant to eliminate an entire family at their takeout restaurant, Chicken Land, in Mississauga just outside Toronto. One young man died on the spot. The others survived, including one man shot through the neck and another in the chest.

It was an unprecedented crime in Canada, an entire family targeted for execution at their workplace, but the trial was also extraordinary for something else. On the opening day, Crown prosecutor David D’Iorio rose to say that the three men — with others — had established a home-grown terrorist cell affiliated with ISIS, the Islamic State. One of the Chicken Land family members had learned about it and had mused that he might tell the police. In ISIS logic, that meant he and his family had to go.

“An extreme crime with an extremist motive,” co-prosecutor Brian McGuire called it. Of the other terrorist cell members, said to number between 10 and 12, all that was mentioned was that the RCMP is pursuing an ongoing investigation, another astonishing detail presumably meaning they still walk among us.

Well, not presumably. At one point in the trial, text messages from one of the defendants showed that he sent money to his brother in Pakistan for jihad — Islamic terrorism. The brother, now back in Canada, sometimes sat next to me in court.

The three convicted killers are: Naqash Abbasi, 34, the organizer; Suliman Raza, 28, the getaway driver; and Anand Nath, 23, the shooter. All were found equally guilty of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

They were running a business near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport that involved a warehouse that doubled as a mosque and dawa centre, a place for inviting non-Muslims to Islam. The shooter was a convert. The young family member killed at Chicken Land, Naim Akl, had gone to work for the men and had also converted. When Akl discovered the ISIS connection, he left Islam and returned to the family restaurant.

The trial imparted details I thought would never come to light. Three years had passed since the shootings, a long time. I suspected a plea bargain was being negotiated to avoid police and prosecutors being labelled “Islamophobic,” a made-up notion pushed internationally by the Muslim Brotherhood and nationally by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

The police and prosecutors would also have had other reasons not to push ahead. The accused men were clearly dangerous, willing to wipe out a family to try to keep a secret. The Crown’s star witness, who knew the three men, asked for and received witness protection, likely including relocation and a new identity. Two bodyguards escorted him to and from court on the days he testified.

Courageously and brilliantly, however, the prosecutors brought the case to trial, and the lead investigators from Peel Regional Police sat with them every day in open court. The question now is whether, with their terrorism case, the RCMP will do the same.

The date for sentencing the three killers has yet to be set, but first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

I am writing a book with the working title, The Chicken Land Shootings: A Crime Within a Crime.

John Goddard

John Goddard is a former Toronto Star and Canadian Press reporter and winner of two National Magazine Awards. His latest book, “The Man with the Black Valise,” tracks the murderer of young Jessie Keith near Stratford, Ont., in 1894.

3 responses to “GUILTY; Home Grown ISIS Cell Convicted of First Degree Murder”

  1. Emile van Nispen says:

    A well written report. Thanks for your effort. It raises awareness.

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