Two alleged Al Qaeda–supported terrorists planning to attack Via Rail Canada, the government-owned rail system, somewhere between Toronto and New York City have been arrested, authorities from both countries announced on Monday.
Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, from Toronto, were charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and "conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) told reporters on April 22, as reported by CBC News. The men were receiving "direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda elements in Iran, CBC News said, though nothing implicated the state, police told the network.
Although the plan entailed killing or severely injuring many people, the alleged potential perpetrators were apprehended long before they had done anything concrete, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told reporters on April 22, CBC News said. The attack was in the planning state but "not imminent,” he said. In addition it was not connected to either last week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon or the two Canadians who died in a January terror attack on an Algerian gas plant. (Related: Aboriginal Runner Emma Cameron Safe in Boston)
Police had dubbed the investigation Operation Smooth and had put the two men under surveillance more than a year ago, “highly placed sources” told CBC News, and said it is ongoing.
The U.S. FBI was also involved in the investigation, as was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CBC News said. David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, congratulated the RCMP and thanked the “dedicated professionals on both sides of the border,” noting the “extensive cross-border cooperation” that the investigation entailed.
"This is an example of the United States and Canada working together to protect our citizens,” Jacobson said in a statement. “It underscores the fact that we face serious and real threats, and that security is a shared responsibility. We all need to remain vigilant in confronting threats and keeping North America safe and secure."