Niagara Gazette — TORONTO — A suspect accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada said Tuesday authorities were basing their conclusions on mere appearances. Iran, meanwhile, denied any involvement.
Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received “directions and guidance” from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iran said it had nothing to do with the plot, and groups such as al-Qaida do not share Iran’s ideology.
Locally, a Niagara Falls Bridge Commission spokesman said there was no indication that the Whirlpool Bridge was the target of any terrorist activity.
”The RCMP did not, have not advised us of any possible threat at our bridges,” said Brent Gallagher, the commission’s manager of agency relations and security.
The bridge commission oversees the Whirlpool, Rainbow and Queenston-Lewiston bridges.
”If there had been a threat, I’m fully confident they (RCMP) would have advised us,” Gallagher added.
Charges against the two men include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police — tipped off by an imam worried about one of the suspects’ behavior — said it was the first known attack planned by al-Qaida in Canada.
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.”
In a brief court appearance in Montreal, a bearded Esseghaier declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer. He made a brief statement in French in which he called the allegations against him unfair.