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Canada thwarts terror attack

April 22, 2013

Canadian authorities have said they arrested terror suspects planning an attack on a commuter train. The arrests are unrelated to the Boston Marathon bombings.

A Via Rail train waits to leave the station at Union Station in Toronto in this July 16, 2009 file photo. Canadian police authorities said on Monday they had arrested and charged two men with an "al Qaeda-supported" plot to derail a passenger train. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files (CANADA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Image: Reuters

Monday's press conference, held by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Toronto, revealed that an investigation dating back to August 2012 had led to the arrests of two men. The FBI was involved in the investigation.

The attack was apparently going to target a commuter train in the Toronto area.

The suspects, who were arrested on Monday, were identified as Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, who lived in Montreal and Toronto, respectively. Neither man was a Canadian citizen, and police would not comment on their nationality.

Muhammad Robert Heft, who runs an outreach organization for converts to Islam, and lawyer Hussein Hamdani told the Associated Press that one of the suspects was Tunisian while the other was from the United Arab Emirates. The Associated Press reported that Esseghaier's LinkedIn page said that he was born in Tunisia.

Both Heft and Hamdani were part of a group of Muslim community members briefed by the RCMP ahead of Monday' announcement. Superintendent Doug Best said that authorities had been tipped off to the plot by members of the Muslim community.

Both suspects are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

'First known' al Qaeda plot in Canada

The RCMP said in a statement that while the suspects had "the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure."

The statement went on to say that the two men were facing charges that "include conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group."

"This is the first known al Qaeda planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," Best told the press conference on Monday.

Iran rejects al Qaeda connection

Speaking at the press conference, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said the two men had received "support from al Qaeda elements located in Iran" in the form of "direction and guidance." Malizia added that there were no indications that the attacks would have been state-sponsored.

A spokesman for the Iranian delegation to the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi, categorically denied any link between the plot in Canada and al Qaeda elements in Iran.

"Iran's position against this group [al Qaeda] is very clear and well known," Miryousefi said in an email sent to the Associated Press late Monday. "[Al Qaeda] has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran's territory."

"We categorically reject any connection to this story," he wrote.

mz,slk/jm (Reuters, AFP)