Niagara Gazette — TORONTO — Two men were arrested and charged with plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train, potentially as it crossed into the U.S. at Niagara Falls, with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran, police said Monday. The case bolstered allegations by some governments and experts of a relationship of convenience between Shiite-led Iran and the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist network.
Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, had "direction and guidance" from al-Qaida members in Iran, though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said. Police said the men did not get financial support from al-Qaida, but declined to provide more details.
"This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Officials in Washington and Toronto said it had no connections to last week's bombings at the marathon in Boston.
Early reports from U.S. officials said a potential bomb plot involved a passenger train over the Niagara River. It was one of the plots uncovered by the RCMP and other agencies, the news agency Reuters reported.
“The plan was to take out a train with passengers on board and the crossing trestle,” said a source. “It was meant to be spectacular and there would have been a lot of carnage.”
The arrests in Montreal and Toronto raised questions about Iran's murky relationship with the terrorist network. Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who is now a Brookings Institution senior fellow, said al-Qaida has had a clandestine presence in Iran since at least 2001 and that neither the terror group nor Tehran speak openly about it.
"The Iranian regime kept some of these elements under house arrest," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "Some probably operate covertly. AQ members often transit Iran traveling between hideouts in Pakistan and Iraq."