Major Canadian terror plot thwarted

Canadian authorities have reported that a major al-Qaeda-backed terror plot has been foiled in that country

by Ghaffar Hussain on 23 April 2013 09:32

In the last 24 hours, Canadian authorities have reported that a major al-Qaeda-backed terror plot has been foiled in that country. Two Muslim men, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, who lived in Montreal and Toronto, were planning to derail a Via Rail passenger train travelling between Toronto and New York.

The plot was in the planning stages and both suspects were arrested after an eight month investigation, dubbed 'operation smooth’, which also involved the FBI. In a much-welcomed development, initial tip-offs leading to the investigation came from within Muslim communities in Canada. The two men are not Canadian citizens and the authorities have yet to reveal their nationalities. According to the Toronto Star, Chiheb is Tunisian and Raed is Palestinian. There is also no link between this plot and the Boston bombings.

This, according to the Canadian authorities, is the first major plot in Canada involving al-Qaeda; the last major plot, which was in 2006 and referred to as the Toronto-18 plot, involved a group of home-grown terrorists acting autonomously. They planned to behead the Prime Minister and blow up the Canadian stock exchange amongst other targets but their plot was thwarted after they were infiltrated by a police informant, Mubin Shaikh, who now acts as a counter-terrorism advisor.

Another slightly unusual detail about thisrecent case is that al-Qaeda elements in Iran are believed to have directed the plot. Iran, in spite of being a sworn enemy of al-Qaeda, does have a complex relationship with the terror organisation and is known to have held, and then released, senior al-Qaeda members, fleeing Afghanistan in the past. This includes the Egyptian Saif al-Adel who, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri, is one of the few seasoned al-Qaeda members still alive. 

The Canadian authorities do not believe that the Iranian regime is complicit in this plot; however, the country’s relationship with Iran has become increasingly tense in recent months after Canada closed its embassy in Tehran and evacuated diplomatic staff, following concerns about Iran's foreign policy, including its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

More details about the Canadian plot and the suspects in custody will undoubtedly emerge in the next few days. In the meantime, we should all breathe a sigh of relief and commend the skill and professionalism of the Canadian security services and all those involved in thwarting this plot.

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