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TORONTO RAIDS TIED TO WORLDWIDE SEARCH

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided three residences and a business in Toronto last week as part of the worldwide search for people and places with ties to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Though police would not reveal the residential addresses they searched Wednesday, RCMP officers were seen going through a local copy shop, apparently seeking a connection to Osama bin Laden's organization.

The shop was raided because its general manager, Ahmad Shehab, is the uncle of Nabil Al-Marabh, who was arrested Sept. 18 in Chicago after his name appeared on an FBI list of "suspects, potential associates of suspects and potential witnesses" to the attacks, according to police.

"We were not looking for people within these places, but there were specific items we were looking for," RCMP Constable Howard Adams said of the searches carried out Wednesday evening in Toronto and Mississauga.

Al-Marabh, 34, who is being held in New York for questioning, is known to have had two Toronto addresses in 1994 during his time in North America, moving between Canada and the United States.

He was caught by U.S. border authorities in June trying to enter the United States with a fake Canadian passport at Niagara Falls.

He was handed over to Canadian authorities and later released on bail posted by his uncle but failed to appear in court on the charges Sept. 13.

Shehab, a part-time Muslim cleric who is angry with his nephew for skipping bail, is furious with the Mounties.

Shehab's lawyer, Rodney Woolf, said the Mounties came in with guns drawn and "tore everything apart, took everything they wanted. How can (Shehab) feel it is justified when he has done absolutely nothing wrong? He has been a pillar of the community for 18 years."

Meanwhile, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported that U.S. investigators are looking with growing interest at Al-Marabh as a suspect who may have significant information.

Until recently, he had lived in a Detroit apartment. He obtained five Michigan driver's licenses in 13 months and has a permit to haul hazardous materials.

Federal law enforcement officials have told Knight Ridder that Al-Marabh is a close associate of bin Laden.

A former Boston cabbie, Al-Marabh has been linked to bin Laden through another former cabdriver in Boston, Raed Hijazi.

The U.S. Customs Service found that Al-Marabh at one time provided money to Hijazi, a Palestinian connected to a failed plot to blow up hotels and holy sites in Jordan, according to news accounts.

Al-Marabh is also linked to Yousseff Hmimssa, arrested Friday by the U.S. Secret Service in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hmimssa and Al-Marabh shared the same Detroit apartment.

In a Sept. 17 raid, investigators found a day planner with notations in Arabic and a detailed sketch of what is thought to be a U.S. air base in Incirlik, Turkey.

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