Two Canadian residents were arrested today after an investigation concluded that the men were planning an attack that would derail a passenger train traveling from Toronto to the U.S.
The investigation, a joint effort between the FBI and Canadian Law Enforcement, found the men to be under the guidance of Al Qaeda.
"This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," said Canadian Supt. Doug Best.
The men, Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, are being charged with both conspiring to carry out an attack and conspiring to murder individuals for the benefit of a terrorist organization. They will face a bond hearing in court on Tuesday.
Law enforcement officials say that although men were surveying trains and gathering information for the attack, no attack was imminent.
“We believe they had the capacity and intent to carry out these attacks, but that there was no imminent threat to passengers, trains or infrastructure," Canadian Chief Supt. Jennifer Strachan said.
According the investigation, named Project Smooth the men planned to derail a commuter train in addition to killing or injuring passengers onboard. Citing “highly placed sources”, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation says the men had been under surveillance for over a year.
Al Qaeda has believed for a long time that railway tracks are an effective form of terrorism. The organization has planned attacks in Germany and Spain over the years. In 2004, an attack on a Madrid railway left more than 200 people dead and 1,700 injured. A document found during the raid in Pakistan that left Osama Bin Laden dead showed plans by Al Qaeda to derail trains in the U.S. by placing obstructions on tracks over bridges and in valleys.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the arrest demonstrates the importance of international anti-terrorism efforts.
“The success of Operation Smooth is due to the fact that Canada works very closely with international partners to combat terrorism," he said. “Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activity,” Toews continued.
The arrests may have an influence on Canadian legislators who are currently debating an Anti-Terrorism act in the countries Senate.