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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Al Qaeda terror plot foiled after Canadian police arrest two over plan to blow up train to New York as it crossed Niagara Falls


Canadian security forces have thwarted an al-Qaeda-backed terrorist plot to derail a New York City-bound passenger train as it crossed the Niagara River, just a few miles from Niagara Falls.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police yesterday arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto. Authorities allege the pair took orders and received guidance from al-Qaeda operatives in Iran. 
Officials reportedly watched the men for more than a year and say the plot never got past the planning stages. Canadian counter-terrorism investigators say the public was never in danger, the the men would have carried out the attack if they had not been stopped. 
Police were later seen raiding Jaser's house in northern Toronto, carrying away material which could be used as evidence in the suspects' prosecution.
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Raid: Police were pictured at a house in Toronto yesterday in connection with a plot to blow up a train
Raid: Police were pictured at a house in Toronto yesterday in connection with a plot to blow up a train
Operation: The alleged would-be terrorists were under surveillance from Canadian police for over a year
Operation: The alleged would-be terrorists were under surveillance from Canadian police for over a year
Evidence: Offers were pictured carrying away material from the home in the north of the city
Evidence: Offers were pictured carrying away material from the home in the north of the city

Neither of the men are Canadian citizens, but security officials would not reveal where they were from or why they were in the country.
The alleged plot is not believed to have any link with last week's Boston Marathon bombings.
 
    The two men allegedly planned to derail an Amtrak or Canadian Via train as it crossed over the Whirpool Rapids Bridge from Canada into the United States, according to reports.
    The 115-year-old arch bridge spans the Niagara River 225 feet above the water.
    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said the operations was conducted with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
    Thwarted: The raid came in the wake of the arrest of two foreigners living in Canada with alleged Al Qaeda links
    Thwarted: The raid came in the wake of the arrest of two foreigners living in Canada with alleged Al Qaeda links
    Link: The house belongs to Raed Jaser, 32, one of the two men arrested on Monday
    Link: The house belongs to Raed Jaser, 32, one of the two men arrested on Monday
    Carried away: Some of the material removed from the home by police as part of their investigation
    Carried away: Some of the material removed from the home by police as part of their investigation

    A source told Reuters that the Amtrak Maple Leaf line, which runs from Toronto to New York City, was targeted. Canadian officials declined to confirm which trains were in the crosshairs.
    The men allegedly watched trains and rail yards across the greater Toronto area to prepare for their assault.
    'Today's arrests demonstrate that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada,' Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters in Ottawa.
    'Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activities.'
    Thwarted: The suspects were allegedly planning to derail a passenger train as it cross the Niagara River on the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (pictured)
    Thwarted: The suspects were allegedly planning to derail a passenger train as it cross the Niagara River on the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (pictured)
    Targeted: Authorities say Via Rail trains, Canada's national passenger rail service, were targeted by two accused terrorists
    Targeted: Authorities say two accused terrorists conducted surveillance on Via Rail trains, Canada's national passenger rail service, with the intention of derailing one of the trains
    Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the announcement is that the orders were given by al-Qaeda leaders in Iran. 
    Iran, a Shi'a-majority country, is a strange ally for the fiercely Sunni Muslim terrorist group.
    CNN reported last month that the few surviving members of Osama bin Laden's inner circle currently reside in Iran.
    Some of bin Laden's family are said to be under house arrest in Tehran. Others - including top advisers - live in the ski resort city of Chalus on the Caspian Sea.

    Video: Royal Canadian Mounted Police announce terror arrests

    International terrorism: The suspects, who were based in Canada's two largest cities, planned to target trains between New York and Toronto
    International terrorism: The suspects, who were based in Canada's two largest cities, planned to target trains between New York and Toronto
    Canadian authorities, though, were careful to make clear that this was not an instance of state-sponsored terrorism. 
    'This is an example of the United States and Canada working together to protect our citizens,' said David Jacobson, the American ambassador to Canada.  
    'It underscores the fact that we face serious and real threats, and that security is a shared responsibility. We all need to remain vigilant in confronting threats and keeping North America safe and secure.'
    Another instance of American-Canadian co-operation that has made headlines of late was the joint effort to extract U.S. embassy workers from Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979. 
    Similarities: Today's arrests were the latest in a history of co-operation between American and Canadian authorities, another instance of which was the inspiration for the hit movie Argo (pictured)
    Similarities: Today's arrests were the latest in a history of co-operation between American and Canadian authorities, another instance of which was the inspiration for the hit movie Argo (pictured)
    Announcement: Authorities gave few details about the plot, but said the public was never in danger
    Announcement: Authorities gave few details about the plot, but said the public was never in danger
    In that instance, six Americans hid out in the Canadian embassy in Tehran for 79 days. 
    Another similarity between the international episodes is that the two terrorists arrested in Canada today were reportedly tied to al Qaeda operatives based in Iran. 
    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.
    It also recalls the arrests in 2006 of a group of more than a dozen Toronto-area men accused of planning to plant bombs at various Canadian targets. Eleven men were eventually convicted of taking part on the plot.


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