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Canada Terror Plot: What Is Security Like At Via Rail?

It's a service that moves over four million passengers every year and on Monday afternoon, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced that Via Rail, Canada's national passenger train service, was the target of a foiled terrorist attack.

RCMP say they've arrested two men — Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser — in connection to the alleged attack. They are suspected of planning an attack on a passenger train travelling from New York to Toronto and that the attack would have happened in Canada, reports CTV. Via Rail routes primarily service Canadian cities but do offer connections to U.S. cities such as New York City and Seattle.

Security at Via Rail stations is considerably more relaxed than Canadian airports. There are no metal detectors, no pat downs by guards or scanners travellers must step through prior to boarding trains within Canada. Carry-on luggage isn't inspected, other than for weight and size restrictions.

However, there are limits on what passengers can bring. Items like ammunition, fireworks and flammable substances are prohibited as are liquids such as perfumes which must always be kept in your carry-on luggage.

“Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured," RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told reporters on Monday at a news conference.

The men are reportedly not from Canada and have been helped with "direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda elements in Iran, according to the CBC. Despite the potential to harm potential riders, the RCMP say while the suspects had the capacity and intent to carry out an attack, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure, according to an online news release.

Calls from the Huffington Post to Via Rail were answered but a representative said company would not be taking interview requests for the time being. Instead, the following statement was released on their website:

Thanks to an unprecedented cooperation between law enforcement and the security units of various departments, VIA Rail and CN, at no time was there an imminent threat to the VIA Rail passengers, employees or the general public. We cooperate with all involved in ensuring the safety and security of our passengers, our employees and the public. We do not comment on law enforcement activities. We acknowledge the work and dedication of the agencies involved.

The alleged attacks draw similar comparisons to bombing on mass transit routes in Europe. In 2004, jihadist terrorists bombed four locations on Madrid's train line using 10 bombs left in backpacks and detonated with cell phones. The attack killed 191 people and injured 1, 460 others. A year later, terrorists attacked the London Underground, the city's subway system, as well as a bus using four bombs. The resulting attack killed 52 people and injured another 700.

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