The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, in connection with a terror plot targeting a VIA Rail train in Toronto. The RCMP says the planned attack posed "no imminent threat" and that the two men, who live in Montreal and the Toronto area, are not Canadian citizens.
In a release announcing the arrests, the RCMP say the two men were alleged to have conspired to attack a passenger train in Toronto. The 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."
Police said the suspects were conspiring to derail a passenger train but refused to elaborate beyond saying the plot had the "direction and guidance" from al-Qaida elements in Iran.
The two men are expected to appear in court Tuesday.
At a press conference in Toronto to announce the charges, officials said the suspects were in contact with al Qaeda "elements" in Iran. When pressed, the officials would not say in what capacity they were assisted by elements in Iran.
According to a Linkedin profile, a member by the name Chiheb Esseghaier was listed as a doctoral student at the at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) and had helped author a number of biology research papers, including on HIV and cancer detection. His profile also indicated that Esseghaier had studied in Tunisia. The page carries a photo of a black flag inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith.
A personal webpage lists Esseghaier's biography. The site is currently down, but here is an excerpt from that page:
Born in Tunis, Tunisia. I got Engineer degree in Industrial Biology from Institut National des Sciences Appliquées et de Technologie (INSAT), Tunis in 2007. After that, I continue master studies at the same institute in Industrial Biotechnology field and i got the MSc degree in 2008. Then, i moved to Sherbrooke University to work on research project on SPR biosensor and gallium arsenide semi-conductor biofunctionnalization. In November 2010, I joined BBBL lab in Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) to start PhD program in developing optical and electrochemical biosensors.
A spokeswoman for the University of Sherbrooke told The Canadian Press that Esseghaier studied there in 2008-2009.
A tweet by a CTV News reporter reportedly showed one of the suspects being transported.
Operation Smooth, the RCMP investigation into the plot, has been monitoring the men for a year.
With a report from The Canadian Press.