Canadian police say they have thwarted a major terrorist attack after busting suspects in Ontario and Quebec. The plot reportedly involved derailing a busy passenger train traveling between New York and Toronto by detonating a bomb as it crossed the bridge into the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, says FoxNews. The targets were both American and Canadian citizens.
Authorities have arrested the two suspected Canadian residents who are believed to be linked to al Qaeda elements in Iran. Although intelligence has effectively stopped this potentially devastating attack, these arrests indicate that terrorism continues to be a threat for both the United States and Canada.
In contrast to its southern neighbor, this is the first known al-Qaeda plan or attack in Canada.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Officials Say This is Unrelated to the Boston Bombings
Although the timing of this event has sparked suspicion that it is in someway related to the recent Boston tragedy, multiple sources have reiterated that this potential attack is not connected to the Tsarnaev brothers’ bombing.
The arrests follow not only the Boston bombings but revelations that Canadians took part in an attack by militants on a gas plant in Algeria in January. CNCNews has also reported that this event is similarly unrelated.
2. The Names of the Suspects Were Released: Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser.
— Tom Podolec CTV News (@TomPodolec) April 22, 2013
The suspects, who are not Canadian citizens, have been under surveillance for about a year. They lived in the Montreal and Toronto area.
According to a press conference by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, are charged with “receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran” and were planning to “carry out an attack and conspiring to murder people on a VIA railway train” in the greater Toronto area, Assistant Police Commissioner James Malizia said.
According to police, Essaghaier and Jaser will make their first court appearance on Tuesday.
3. Canada Cooperated with the U.S. in the Investigation, Dubbed “Project Smooth”
Canadian Police said the surveillance operation leading to the arrest was “a result of extensive collaborative efforts.”
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the investigation was “part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
4. The Plot was Linked to al-Qaeda in Iran
During Monday’s press conference, Canadian police accused the two men of conspiring to commit an “al-Qaeda-supported” attack. The Assitant Commisioner James Malizia said that the two accused were getting “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda elements in Iran.
Although there are allegations of links to al Qaeda forces, there is no evidence that suggests the planned attacks were state-sponsored by Iran.
5. The Attack was in The Planning Stage, Not Imminent
RCMP Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachans said that the suspects had watched trains and railways around Toronto. She stressed that the public and rail employees were never in any danger.
“It was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent,” she said.
Strachans said the plot involved “a specific route but not a specific train,” but she and other officials would not say which route. Law enforcement sources told Reuters the target was the Toronto-to-New York route.