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Canadian Police Thwart Major Terror Plot

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On Monday, April 22, Canadian officials announced the arrest of a number of terrorist suspects in Ontario and Quebec, thwarting what is said to be a major terrorist atrocity, according to CBC News.  Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, are accused of conspiring to murder people on a VIA Canadian railway train, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. While the suspects had the capacity to carry out an attack, the public was never in imminent danger, police told reporters. Police said the suspects “were receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran.” The support entailed direction and guidance, police said.

The arrests are not thought to be linked to the recent Boston Marathon attack, and an official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police added there was no known link with the Canadians involved in the terror attack on the Algerian gas plant in January.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quoted “highly placed sources” as saying the suspects were under surveillance for more than a year.  The CBC reported that the investigation was “part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

This is not the first time Canadian authorities have broken up a large-scale terrorist attack. In the summer of 2006, Canadian police arrested 18 suspects as part of a major counter-terrorism operation in southern Ontario. The sweeping arrests exposed a terrorist cell that planned to carry out a number of atrocities, including a massive attack on the Toronto Stock Exchange with explosives-laden trucks, and a plan to behead the Canadian Prime Minister, among other politicians. Although only 11 of the suspects were subsequently convicted, they became known as the “Toronto 18”.

The arrests are the latest in a series of successful counter-terrorism operations in Canada. Apart from the “Toronto 18” a number of smaller cases have been unearthed, the most recent of which was in 2010, when three Islamist extremists – including a one-time Canadian Idol contestant – were charged with conspiracy to knowingly facilitate terrorist activities. Two of them were further charged with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group.”  That case has yet to go to court.

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