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The Via Rail/Amtrak train "Maple Leaf" (shown here near Niagara Falls) makes the Toronto to New York City run. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/3336/5313641895/">Diego Torres Silvestre</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
The Via Rail/Amtrak train "Maple Leaf" (shown here near Niagara Falls) makes the Toronto to New York City run. Photo: Diego Torres Silvestre, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Canada disrupts Al Qaeda-supported "major terror plot"

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Canadian officials say they have disrupted a "major" terror plot involving two men in Montreal and Toronto who were planning to derail a VIA passenger train.

According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the pair were working with support from Al Qaeda elements based in Iran. Sources in the US say the men were planning to attack a train traveling from Toronto to New York City.

This news comes at a time when concerns are rising about terrorism activity based in Canada.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

The individuals were receiving support from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran. There is no information to indicate that these attacks were state sponsored.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, the RCMP's James Malizia laid out what he described as a significant effort by two men to attack a passenger train.

"Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were conspiring to carry out an Al Qaeda-supported attack against a VIA passenger train," he said.

According to Malizia, the plot was still in the planning stage and was receiving support from what he described as elements of Al Qaeda operating in Iran.

"The individuals were receiving support from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran. There is no information to indicate that these attacks were state-sponsored."

RCMP officials say they've been monitoring the two men's activities for at least nine months and there was no danger of the alleged scheme being carried out.

Last night, CTV television interviewed a leading member of Toronto's Muslim community, Hussein Hamdani, who said the investigation was launched after a tip from a cleric at a Canadian mosque.

"This was a tip that came from the Muslim community because it had good relations with the RCMP," Hamdani said. "Because of the bridge building that was made long before this incident took place."

Canadian officials offered few details about how the terror attack might have been carried out. They also declined to say where the two men are from, except to say that neither are Canadian citizens.

Press reports linked one of the men to the nation of Tunisia.

American officials also suggested that the train route being targeted may have been a passenger line between Toronto and New York City, though the RCMP didn't confirm that detail.

The idea that elements in Iran might have supported a terrorism attack in Canada startled some observers, because Al Qaeda and Iranian officials have historically been at odds.

Jennifer Strachan, criminal operations officer for the RCMP in Ontario, praised the agencies that took part in the "lengthy, complex" investigation.

"We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack," she said.

"They watched trains and railways in the greater Toronto area."

Yesterday's announcement was the second time in April that Canadian officials confirmed terrorism activities on their soil.

Earlier this month, CBC confirmed that two of the men involved in a deadly terror attack on a gas refinery in Algeria came from London, Ontario.

Concerns about terror cells operating in Ontario and Quebec have led to a more than decade-long stiffening of security along the US-Canada border that began after the Millenium bomber plot against the US was hatched in Montreal in 1999.

Read more about the foiled terror plot is at our blog, The Inbox.

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