Suspects charged in Via train terror plot have al-Qaida ties: RCMP

Alleged terror conspiracy had “direction and guidance” of al-Qaida in Iran, police say

Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan addresses media Monday during a press conference announcing the arrest of two individuals charged with allegedly planning a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. (Photograph by Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

TORONTO, Canada – Two Canadian residents were charged Monday for allegedly planning to attack a Via Rail passenger train in what the RCMP is calling the first known al-Qaida directed plot in this country.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, were arrested Monday morning.

Police said the suspects had been watching trains and railways in the Greater Toronto Area and were conspiring to derail a passenger train. They wouldn’t say how the suspects allegedly planned to attack, but said the plot had the “direction and guidance” from al-Qaida elements in Iran.

“This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we’ve experienced in Canada,” said Supt. Doug Best.

There is no information to indicate the alleged plot was sponsored, the RCMP added.

Dubbed “Project Smooth,” the investigation was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“While the RCMP believed the accused had the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said at a news conference.

Police had Esseghaier and Jaser under surveillance since August. They were put on investigators’ radar thanks to tips from the Muslim community, Best said.

“The very first instance we were aware of the activities of one particular individual that yes, was brought to our attention by the community,” he said.

About two dozen Muslim community leaders were called to meet with the RCMP and received a briefing before Monday’s news conference.

They were told that one of the suspects is Tunisian and one is from the United Arab Emirates.

The suspects have been in the country legally for a “considerable period of time” but are not Canadian citizens, the RCMP said.

The two men are charged with conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder, persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.

Authorities declined to provide further details about the two suspects, but a spokeswoman for the University of Sherbrooke told The Canadian Press that Esseghaier studied there in 2008-2009.

More recently, he has been doing doctoral research at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, a spokeswoman at the training university confirmed.

A man with the same name is scheduled to deliver a presentation on PSA cancer screening, with colleagues, at a conference in California this summer.

A LinkedIn page says a man with Esseghaier’s name and academic background helped author a number of biology research papers, including on HIV and cancer detection. The page carries a photo of a black flag inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith.

The Muslim leaders who attended Monday’s briefing with the RCMP were not surprised to hear that the original tip came from their community.

“I think now it’s becoming more apparent to the Muslim community about its involvement with police services and with public safety agencies,” said Kamran Bhatti, with North American Spiritual Revival, a Muslim cross-cultural community group.

The Muslim community is generally made up of law-abiding citizens who want to make a difference in their cities and towns, said Farina Siddiqui, with DawaNet, a Muslim outreach group.

“The partnership and collaboration between security agencies and the Muslim community is at a heightened level,” she said.

“We need to work to identify the problems that our youth is getting into…then identify the solutions to actually eliminate those kinds of situations.”

The arrests come only four months after two young Canadians were found among militants killed in a terrorist siege at a gas plant in Algeria. The siege killed at least 38 hostages and 29 militants, including Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas, two high school friends from London, Ont.

Authorities said Monday the latest arrests were not related to the Algerian attack or last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Other instances of so-called homegrown terror plots in Canada are few, but none of them were directed by al-Qaida.

Momin Khawaja was convicted in 2008 of training at a remote camp in Pakistan, providing cash to a group of British extremists and offences related to building a remote-control detonator.

A group of young Toronto-area men, who have come to be known as the Toronto 18, plotted to bomb several targets including the Toronto Stock Exchange, CSIS headquarters and a military base. Though 18 men were arrested, 11 were ultimately convicted of terrorism offences.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the arrests show that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada.

“The success of Operation Smooth is due to the fact that Canada works very closely with international partners to combat terrorism,” he said in the House of Commons.

“Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activity.”

U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson congratulated the RCMP on the arrests, saying they were the result of extensive cross-border co-operation.

“Dedicated professionals on both sides of the border brought these arrests to fruition, and I thank them for their service and hard work,” Jacobson said in a statement.

“We all need to remain vigilant in confronting threats and keeping North America safe and secure.”

The two suspects are expected to appear in court for a bail hearing Tuesday in Toronto.

— with files from Andy Blatchford in Montreal and Stephanie Levitz in Ottawa

Here is the RCMP release on the case:

“Today, the RCMP arrested two individuals and charged them with conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. The accused have been charged under sections 248, 235 (1), 83.2, 83.18, 83.21 of the Criminal Code of Canada. As a result of extensive collaborative efforts, the RCMP was able to disrupt the threat early. While the RCMP believed that these individuals had the capacity and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure.

“The two accused, Chiheb ESSEGHAIER and Raed JASER, who live in the Montreal and Toronto area were conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack against a VIA passenger train. Charges include conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.

“The RCMP investigation named Project SMOOTH, was coordinated by RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs) in Montreal and Toronto with the close collaboration of domestic partners and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The RCMP would like to thank its INSET partners including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Durham Regional Police, the Sûreté du Québec and the service de police de la Ville de Montréal. The RCMP is also grateful for the valuable assistance of the FBI, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Transport Canada, VIA Rail and CN Police. These exceptional collaborative efforts directly contributed to making the arrests.

“Each and every terrorist arrest the RCMP makes sends a message and illustrates our strong resolve to root out terrorist threats and keep Canadians and our allies safe,” stated Assistant Commissioner James Malizia, responsible for Federal Policing Operations. “A meaningful response to these threats begins on Canadian streets and in Canadians homes and the RCMP works with all their partners, including communities across Canada, in the fight against terrorism.”

The public is always encouraged to bring any suspicious activities to the RCMP’s attention through the National Security Information Network (1-800-420-5805) or by contacting the police in their community.”

Here is the full statement from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews: 

“The first responsibility of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Our government takes this responsibility very seriously and we have strengthened the legislative and operational framework of our security agencies to carry out that mandate.

“As the RCMP have just announced, they have arrested two individuals as the result of an ongoing investigation into terrorism-related activities. Today’s arrests demonstrate that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada.

“The success of Operation SMOOTH is due to the fact that Canada works very closely with international partners to combat terrorism. I would like to commend the RCMP, CSIS, local law enforcement and all the agencies involved for their collaboration with security and law enforcement partners, and the thoroughness of the investigation that has led to these charges. I would also like to thank the FBI for their assistance throughout this investigation and their co-operation in bringing it to a successful conclusion.

“Operation SMOOTH is an example of Canada’s long-standing and productive intelligence-sharing relationship with domestic and international partners. This is a key component of Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy and fundamental to protecting Canadians from terrorist threats.

“Our Government remains unwavering in its commitment to protect Canadians and support the global fight against terrorism. Preventing, countering, and prosecuting terrorism is a priority for our Government. Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activity. When terrorism offences occur it is important that they be prosecuted to the full extent of Canadian law.

“Our Government will continue to be vigilant and take the steps necessary to protect Canadians and their families, and our allies who share our common values. Canadians can be assured that our government will stand firm in our commitment to protecting this country from terrorists and the fear they hope to generate.

“As this has been an ongoing operational matter that will now go before the courts, I will conclude my statement and will not be taking questions.”

And here is a release from U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson in response to the news:  

“I congratulate the RCMP on the arrest of two individuals on terrorism-related charges.  These arrests were the result of extensive cross-border co-operation, which is the hallmark of our relationship.  Dedicated professionals on both sides of the border brought these arrests to fruition, and I thank them for their service and hard work.

“This is an example of the United States and Canada working together to protect our citizens.  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.”




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Suspects charged in Via train terror plot have al-Qaida ties: RCMP

  1. Liberal leader Trudeau the younger stated the Boston Bombers were feeling left out.
    I suppose he will feel the same about these plotters.

    We had French terrorists in Canada who kidnapped and murdered people. They were calling for a separate Socialist Quebec. In my opinion Pierre Trudeau the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada at the time (1970) gave in to blackmail.

    Look what he gave them:

    Trudeau the sly elder one, advanced a system where The Rest Of Canada subsidizes Quebec Healthcare (as smoking in Quebec is disproportional with The Rest of Canada)
    Daycare is subsidized by Federal money.
    Cheap Education in Quebec is subsidized by the rest of Canada.
    Dairy, Chicken and Eggs are higher priced in the rest of Canada to support mostly Quebec based producers.
    Even corruption is subsidized in Quebec – Federal projects in Quebec – are
    inflated by corruption and the rest of Canada pays for their corruption through
    higher taxes.
    Language; The only place we really need Bilingualism is Quebec and they have practically outlawed English.

    Mr. Trudeau – You and the citizens of your spoiled province need to be kept out of power and away from sharp objects; and never given a chance to steal more from us.

    • The elder ordered the Canadian Army into Quebec because of 8 Francophone terrorists.
      Was it 10 terrorists?
      How many billions of dollars did that cost Canada?
      Well, his scheme paid off because afterwards he got a landslide.
      English Canada is still paying the costs.
      Half the population of Quebec is so poor and downtrodden that is pays either no Federal income taxes or virtually none.
      And 50 years ago Montreal was the financial, commercial and industrial center of Canada.
      What happened?
      I spent nearly 15 years on this problem.
      Why?
      Because I love Canada.
      Every year thousands of Canadians die because they do not receive the proper medical treatments they deserve when they need them the most.

  2. Strange again ? !! But it points out the obvious and that is that all Muslims are not terrorists, BUT, All terrorists are Muslim ….. The RCMP Press conference was a waste of time, More questions than answers, a real PR appeasement presentation so as not to offend our CULTURAL communities.

    • All terrorists are not Muslim.
      There are terrorists in Ireland that are catholic and there are some who are protestant. There are terrorists in Africa who worship local gods. There are terrorists in Iraq who are Muslim others from the West who call themselves contractors.
      Heck there are terrorists in N America who push animal rights to extremes and yet others who claim to be pro-life yet are happy to kill in that cause.
      It’s not being PC to say that any community can produce terrorists, because it is a fact.

      • I agree that not all terrorist are muslim. But for now the powers that be need to get together around the world get there crap together and finish this war on terrorism. Like the old saying says “clean your own backyard first, before someone elses”. That being said, asking for help is no problem either, but you presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, whatever. Get your head out of your butt and get this crap dealt with. I am tired of hearing of people getting killed over stupid beliefs. I dont care what anybody believes, just dont push it on me, and I wont push mine…now lets have a beer and move on to important things like improving man kind as oppose to killing man kind.

  3. I think we should make a list of every Mosque and every Church (the ones like in O Brother where art thou) that we know is spewing hate. Some of these Christian Churches will be on Canadian and American soil. We should also make a a list of all the rich people who are Neocons; whose sole motivation is to increase public debt in an attempt to kneecap public expenditures on health education and security. Consider targeting them all at once in retaliation.

    • …the goal being to preempt a bioterror attack. That Ricin Christian nut would’ve used Spanish Flu if he could’ve.

      • Part of the problem is Islam is less inflexible than RC-sim, and probably less inflexible than Judaism, when it comes to adapting and change. We are going to need a level of technology that renders society safe from natural or man-made variations in Solar Output. Islam does not allow jokes about Mohammed. Humour has been used by Satyrists and foreward, to make people in positions of power see for themselves how wrong and evil some of their policies are. It is safer than a coup. And Islam was founded in the 9th century mid-Asian region when there were hostile forces on three sides; really did want women to stay at home with the kids else raiders. The Iliad saved women and children. The Knights saved everyone. Cowboys presuppose no gvmt. A progressive humanist, humans now and humans in the future, is the most superior worldview. If you can’t mock a prophet, it will make believers of Islam less adapted, and slightly more poorer in the future. A future which must undergo tech advances and shocks of various types, to get to a stable non-WMD level of technology. With people less adaptable and less well adapted (inferiority complex), more Islam followers will be terrorists and less solving WMD-issues, than Christians. Of course the atheist/agnostic humanists have them both beat. When I make jokoes, it makes me feel better about being alone and poor; I’m more productive and useful to others when I mock god.

        • I guess we build knowledge over time, and anyone who limits this, limits the ability of people to make meaningful contributions. And if you are stuck with an 800AD worldview, one of your psychological outs is to attack the 2013AD world. In any event, if I’m going to live my whole life on the teachings of one person, I’d need to have a conversation with him about his experiences; I’m guessing aliens would lie to us to prevent super WMDs or to get us to enforce super WMDs…and we might have better judgement than any alien or god given our home Earth advantages.

  4. Thank God we have the CIA, NSA and FBI working with the RCMP.
    Why?
    Because nearly a half century of French-Canadian political and economic irrationalism has debased our public institutions.
    God bless Canada and the United States.

    • I will grant you that their are valid criticisms of the past Liberal gov’t, but I sincerely hope you aren’t deluded enough to think that the present charade of a conservative gov’t is an improvement? Because if so then you will have to back that up with valid, provable arguments. Otherwise I’m not buying what you’re selling.
      Why?
      Because I deal with reality.

      • “I will grant you that there are valid criticisms of the present conservative gov’t, but I sincerely hope you aren’t deluded enough to think the present charade of an opposition is an improvement? Because if so then you will have to back that up with valid, provable arguments. Otherwise I’m not buying what you’re selling.
        Why?
        Because I deal with reality.

  5. It’s great to know freedom of the press in Canada insures bottom feeders such as the Calgary Sun don’t hesitate to write, “Iran was involved”, when the facts are clearly the opposite. Gotta keep that readership in line, doncha know.

    • Right on Tony! Down with freedom of the press! It’s a threat to diversity! So is allowing people to notice obvious patterns. Could there be a greater threat to Canadian values?? I don’t think so. Someone from the Canadian Human Rights commission needs to do a better job protecting the rights of the Iranian gov’t against crazed Canadians.

  6. So, we need to flood the country with more people from hostile cultures until the problem becomes uncontrollable? Everyone knows that mass immigration from the 3rd world is a mortal threat to our freedom and democracy. We have to stop bowing to politically correct pro-immigration politicians and activists, most of whom are on the payroll of foreign gov’ts anyway.

  7. I still advocate tying those two – and the surviving Boston bomber their buddy – to the tracks and letting the freight train handle th execution. Al-qaeda must die!

  8. If they are not citizens, can they be imprisoned in Canada? If so, can’t we simply bring back the firing squad? You know, because they are a lethal treat to national security? Religion of peace? People cherry-pick what they like and forget all the other horrible things in the Bible and the Quran. These terrorists are simply not cherry-picking. Is it so hard to understand that religions cause more physical and psychological harm than good?

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