“Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police official James Malizia told reporters in Toronto.The arrests come a week after the terrorist attack that killed three people and injured nearly 200 others at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, leading up to a chaotic chase and running gunfight in the Boston area just hours after the FBI released images showing two of the bombers from surveillance footage on Thursday. Some reports that the two Chechen brothers behind the Boston Marathon attack were part of a larger sleeper cell. However, the RCMP claims that today's arrests are likely unrelated to the Marathon bombings.
The RCMP said it had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto in connection with the plot, which authorities said was not linked to the Boston Marathon bombings, but likely had connections to al-Qaida.
“The RCMP is alleging that Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were conspiring to carry out an al-Qaida-supported attack against a VIA passenger train,” Malizia said.
U.S. officials said the attack would have targeted a rail line between New York and Toronto, but Canadian police did not confirm that.
The two suspects are not Canadian citizens, although their respective countries of origin weren't disclosed at Monday's news conference.
The plan received “direction and guidance” from an element of al-Qaeda based in Iran, said the force, refusing to elaborate. That connection with the Islamic terrorist organization made the plot particiularly significant, said Asst. Supt. Malidza.Earlier this year, two Canadian nationals who were on the radar of Canada's intelligence agency were among the hostage-takers killed at a natural gas plant in southern Algeria when the Algerian military raided the facility. At least 23 hostages and more than 30 terrorists were killed in the January attack.
However, officers said there was no evidence the plan was in any way “state-sponsored.”