MONTREAL – Canadian authorities have foiled a major “al-Qaida supported” terror plot targeting a passenger train in the Toronto area by arresting two men in Montreal and Toronto, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Monday.
“This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we’ve experienced in Canada,” RCMP Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Officials in Washington and Toronto said it had no connections to last week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line.
The two accused, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, a resident of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, were conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train, Assistant RCMP Commissioner James Malizia said at a news conference.
“Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured,” Malizia said.
“While the RCMP believed that these individuals 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 suspects received “direction and guidance” from elements in Iran, the RCMP said, but there was no indication that the plot was state-sponsored.
The men were under surveillance since August 2012 until a special anti-terrorism task force of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service swooped in to nab the two suspects.
Malizia said neither of the accused is a Canadian citizen, but would not specify their home countries or how long they have been in Canada.
Dubbed Operation Smooth, the investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as provincial and municipal police forces in Quebec and Ontario.
A bail hearing for the two suspects is scheduled for today at Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse.
“Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and will not become a safe haven for terrorists,” said federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.