Two men due in court after Canada thwarts al-Qa'ida-linked plot to blow up US-Canada rail line

Two men arrested, following year-long investigation, with no links to Boston Marathon bombings, according to authorities
  • @timwalker

Canadian security forces have foiled a homegrown terrorist plot to derail a passenger train travelling between Toronto and New York, it was revealed today. Police announced that they had arrested two men, who planned to blow up a rail line on the Canadian side of the US-Canada border.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, from Montreal, and 35-year-old Raed Jaser, of Toronto, have been 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.”

A spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said at a news conference that the “al-Qa'ida-supported attack” was unconnected to last week’s Boston Marathon bombings. RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told reporters, “Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or severely injured.” But while the two men had the “capacity and intent” to execute an attack, a police statement insisted there was “no imminent threat to the public, rail employees or infrastructure.”

The men had "direction and guidance" from al-Qa'ida members in Iran, though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Malizia said.

The arrests reportedly came at the climax of a lengthy, multi-agency investigation, christened “Operation Smooth,” which began in August 2012, and drew in not only several Canadian law enforcement agencies, but also the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

It is the latest in a string of terrorism-related incidents involving Canadian citizens. In January, two men in their early 20s from the same high school in London, Ontario died taking part in an Islamist attack on a gas plant in Algeria.

A week ago, it emerged that Mahad Ali Dhore, a Canadian who travelled to Somalia in 2009 to join the militant Islamist group Al Shabab, had been killed in a suicide attack at the law courts in the capital, Mogadishu. In 2006, 18 men from the Toronto area were arrested and accused of planning to detonate truck bombs in Toronto, before storming the Canadian Parliament and beheading the country’s Prime Minister. Eleven men were eventually convicted for participating in the plot