Police thwart alleged Canadian terrorist attack
Canadian police and intelligence agencies have thwarted an alleged plot to carry out a major terrorist attack to derail a VIA passenger train.
The accused, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, live in Montreal and Toronto. Esseghaier and Jaser are charged with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group. The men are not Canadian citizens. The men were allegedly being directed and guided by al-Qaida elements in Iran, but there is no reason to believe that the planned attacks were state-sponsored, according to RCMP.
The alleged plotters have been under surveillance for more than a year in Quebec and southern Ontario. The investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The arrests Monday morning were coordinated and executed by a special joint task force of RCMP and CSIS anti-terrorism units, combined with provincial and municipal police forces in Ontario and Quebec. The investigation was named Project SMOOTH.
Law enforcement officials say the terror suspects arrested today have no connection to the two brothers accused of last week's Boston Marathon bombings.
They also say there is no tie to the former London, Ont., high school friends who joined al-Qaida and died earlier this year while helping to stage a bloody attack on an Algerian gas refinery.
Alleged plot recalls Toronto 18 case
Sources say the alleged plot disrupted by Monday's arrests was potentially more dangerous than the bombings and hostage-takings planned by the so-called Toronto 18.
That plot was broken up in the summer of 2006, when police arrested 18 people in a massive anti-terrorism sweep in southern Ontario.
Eleven of the 18 were subsequently convicted of aiding the group in various plots, ranging from blowing up the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill and the Toronto Stock Exchange with trucks laden with explosives to beheading the prime minister and other politicians.
The group never got a chance to execute any of its plans before being arrested when one of its members took delivery of what they thought were three tonnes of explosive fertilizer to be used in truck bombs. Undercover agents had replaced the shipment with harmless chemicals.
Four are serving sentences of 18 years to life in prison, while the other seven received terms ranging from 30 months to just over seven years.
More recently, three Canadian citizens were arrested in August 2010 — two Ottawa men and a London, Ont. doctor — and charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity.
One of them, Hiva Alizadeh, was also charged with possession of more than 50 circuit boards allegedly to be used as remote detonators for bombs.
The cases involving those three have yet to go to court.