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.
The two accused, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, a resident of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, a resident 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 at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
“Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured,” said Malizia.
“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 US 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 Tuesday 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.