Canada thwarts "al Qaeda-backed" train plot, Iran denies role

Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:43am EDT
 
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By Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested two men and charged them with plotting to derail a Toronto-area passenger train in an operation that they say was backed by al Qaeda elements in Iran.

"Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured," Royal Canadian Mounted Police official James Malizia told reporters on Monday.

U.S. officials said the attack would have targeted a rail line between New York and Toronto, a route that travels along the Hudson Valley and enters Canada near Niagara Falls.

The RCMP said it had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto in connection with the plot. Authorities said it was not linked to last week's Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 200.

Neither suspect is a Canadian citizen, and police did not reveal their nationalities. Two sources following the investigation said one was Tunisian.

Canada's intelligence agency has long expressed concern about the possibility that disgruntled and radicalized Canadians could attack targets at home and abroad.

Police gave little detail about the alleged plotters, but said a tip from the Muslim community had helped their year-long investigation.

Esseghaier has been a doctoral student at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique near Montreal since 2010 and was about midway through his degree, the school said.   Continued...

 
RCMP Chief Superintendent Gaeten Courchesne (L) speaks during a news conference as Assistant Commissioner James Malizia (R) looks on in Toronto, Ontario, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: CRIME LAW TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST)