By Phil Couvrette
4:40 p.m. January 19, 2007
MONTREAL – Canadian authorities said Friday they were investigating terrorist threats against Montreal’s English-speaking community by a group claiming links to militant Quebec separatists who kidnapped and murdered a provincial minister in the 1970s.
In a statement dated Jan. 15, a group claiming to be a cell of the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) warns that attacks between Feb. 15 and March 15 would use booby-trapped parcels and remote-control devices with the intention of causing “maximum impact.”
“It’s possible there will be injuries and deaths,” warns the document obtained by The Associated Press. The group said it would target shopping malls, bridges, rail lines, airport facilities, water supplies, municipal buildings and service stations.
“Is it a hoax, is it someone who wants to pass as an FLQ cell? This remains to be determined, but we are taking this very seriously,” said Luc Bessette, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The same group issued a warning of attack last November, referring to the same date.
In 1970, the shadowy FLQ demanded “total independence” from Canada. Its members kidnapped and killed Quebec’s labor minister and later abducted, then freed, a British diplomat.
The subsequent “October Crisis” was considered one of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history. Canadian troops patrolled the streets of Quebec and jailed alleged FLQ sympathizers, most of whom were later found innocent of having any ties to the militant group.
Since then, the separatist Parti Quebecois has gained seats in the provincial assembly, but twice failed to win referendums calling for independence of the French-speaking province. The political party has never advocated violence in its struggle for sovereignty.
While the Quebec separatist movement has not displayed the militancy of the 1970s in recent years, polls indicate the movement is far from dead, with support for Quebec’s independence hovering between 40 to 45 percent.