Two men have been charged in connection with a terror plot targeting a VIA train in Toronto. The RCMP collaborated with a number of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and police services in Ontario and Quebec, before Monday’s arrests.
The RCMP said that there was no imminent danger to people or infrastructure during the year-long investigation, although officials noted these “individuals had the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts.”
The two suspects, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, were from Montreal and Toronto. The two men will face a number of charges including conspiring to interfere with transportation facilities and conspiring to murder persons for the benefit of a terrorist group.
“Terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “Our government remains unwavering it its commitment to protect Canadians and support the global fight against terrorism.”
The operation to arrest the two men was dubbed Project Smooth. Investigators believe the two men were getting support from al-Qaeda elements located in Iran, though police said they don’t believe the alleged plot was state sponsored. The RCMP also said that the two men were not Canadian citizens but would not say where they’re from due to the ongoing investigation. The RCMP also said that the investigation was significant because a foreign body or group tried to support a home-grown plot.
The RCMP said that the two men were watching trains and railways in the Greater Toronto Area.
“Each and every terrorist arrest the RCMP makes sends a message and illustrates our strong resolve to root out terrorist threats and keep Canadians and our allies safe,” Assistant Commissioner James Malizia, stated in a press release.
The National Post is reporting that Muslim community leaders in Toronto were invited to a background briefing held by the RCMP.
The alleged plotters have been under surveillance for more than a year, according to CBC. VIA rail also issued a statement about the terror plot. “Thanks to an unprecedented cooperation between law enforcement and the security units of various departments, VIA Rail and CN, at no time was there an imminent threat to the VIA Rail passengers, employees or the general public,” they wrote in a statement.
Law enforcement officials tell CBC the arrests are not connected to the Boston Marathon bombings.
Last week, the Tories announced that they would be fast-tracking anti-terror legislation in parliament.
Security officials in Canada have been concerned about the rise of home-grown terrorism. Four young men from London, Ont., were recently identified as being involved in a deadly attack and hostage-taking in Algeria. There are also reports that a Somali-Canadian may have been involved in a deadly attack on a Mogadishu courthouse earlier in April.
Canadian authorities arrested more than a dozen people in 2006 over a plot to strike Toronto and Ottawa.