OTTAWA, Ontario — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Monday announced the arrest of two men who are accused of planning to derail a passenger train in an al-Qaida linked plot.
The police, saying that the investigation was continuing, offered little in the way of details or evidence at a news conference in Toronto. Canadian politicians and government officials were similarly reticent.
Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said that the two suspects had received “direction and guidance” from “al-Qaida elements living in Iran,” but that there was no evidence that the effort was sponsored by the government of Iran.
He declined to explain how the link to al-Qaida had been made.
The two suspects were identified as Chiheb Esseghaier, 35, who has been living in Toronto, and Raed Jaser, 30, of Montreal. The police said they were not Canadian citizens, but declined to identify their nationalities or to describe their immigration status in Canada.
Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan said that the two men had studied train movements and rail lines in and around Toronto, and were plotting to attack a train operated by Via Rail Canada, the government-owned rail system, within Canada.
The police declined to identify what train or train line they planned to target or to describe how the derailment was to occur. Via Rail, in conjunction with Amtrak, runs a train from Toronto to New York’s Penn Station.
The police emphasized that the public was never in “imminent danger.” Officials said that the two suspects had been under constant observation and that contingency plans had been made.
Little is known about the two men. The Canadian Press news agency reported that Esseghaier studied at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec in 2008 and 2009. It added that he had recently been doing graduate work in biology at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Montreal.
Both the police and David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, indicated that the FBI and other American law enforcement and intelligence agencies were involved in the investigation. No one, however, offered any specifics about that involvement or indicated if the plot had a cross-border element.
“These arrests were the result of extensive cross-border cooperation, which is the hallmark of our relationship,” Jacobson said in a statement. “Dedicated professionals on both sides of the border brought these arrests to fruition.”