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Canada arrests 2 in alleged Al Qaeda-backed terror plot

April 22, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • In Toronto, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and a colleague head to a news conference to announce the arrests of two men accused of plotting to derail a passenger train.
In Toronto, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and a colleague head… (Chris Young / Associated…)

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Canadian police said Monday that they had foiled an Al Qaeda-supported plot to derail a passenger train in the greater Toronto area, and had arrested two suspects.

The two, identified as 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghaier and 35-year-old Raed Jaser, face charges that include conspiring to commit murder in connection with a terrorist group, Canadian law enforcement officials told reporters at a news conference Monday.

The suspects lived in Montreal and Toronto but are not Canadian citizens, according to the police, who declined to comment on where the men were from. Police said the pair were given direction and guidance by Al Qaeda elements in Iran as they planned the derailment. The officials, however, later said they did not believe the plot was “state-sponsored” by Iran.

Canadian officials said the FBI cooperated in the investigation that led to the arrests. The investigation began last summer, they said.

Though the Royal Canadian Mounted Police believes the two suspects had the "capacity and intent" to carry out the attack, police stressed there was never any imminent threat to railway employees or the public. The two suspects are scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing Tuesday.

The Canadian arrests come days after the dramatic manhunt and capture of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombings, but Canadian news media reported that the alleged plot was not connected to last week's deadly attack.

The Boston bombings have nonetheless resonated in Canada, where lawmakers have been debating new legislation that would expand police powers in the event of a terrorist attack. Fears of terrorism also surged amid reports that two Canadians, now dead, were suspected of taking part in the January attack on a refinery at In Amenas, Algeria, that ended with dozens of hostages and militants dead.

Canadian police have announced the disruption of other terrorism plots in the past: Nearly seven years ago, police arrested a group that came to be known as "the Toronto 18" on terrorism charges tied to planned bombings and beheadings. Eleven were ultimately convicted.

For the record, 2:16 p.m. April 22: An earlier version of this post said that the charges included murder in connection with a terrorist group. The charge was conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a terrorist group.

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