A Canadian terror attack was foiled after several members of the Muslim community tipped off authorites about the plot. One of the two men accused in the plot to bring terror on a Canadian commuter train made a brief court appearance.
Investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received “directions and guidance” from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iran denied any involvement and said groups such as al-Qaida do not share Iran’s ideology.
Charges against the two men include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group. Police said it was the first known attack planned by al-Qaida in Canada. Esseghaier was scheduled to appear in court in Montreal later Tuesday.
Their case has raised questions about the extent of Shiite-led Iran’s relationship with the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist network. Relations between the two have been rocky for many years, but some al-Qaida members were allowed to stay in Iran after fleeing Afghanistan following the U.S. led invasion there. Iran watched them carefully and limited their movements.
U.S. intelligence officials track limited al-Qaida activity inside Iran. Remnants of al-Qaida’s so-called management council are still there, though they are usually kept under virtual house arrest by the Iranian regime There are also a small number of financiers and facilitators who help move money, and sometimes weapons and people throughout the region from their base in Iran.
Last fall, the Obama administration offered up to $12 million in rewards for information leading to the capture of two al-Qaida leaders based in Iran. The U.S. State Department described them as key facilitators in sending extremists to Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department also announced financial penalties against one of the men.
Officials in Canada said Jaser and Esseghaier had “direction and guidance” from al-Qaida members in Iran but no financial assistance, and there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Tuesday that groups such as al-Qaida have “no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields.”
“We oppose any terrorist and violent action that would jeopardize lives of innocent people,” he said.
Mehmanparast called the Canadian claims part of hostile policies against Tehran, and accused Canada of indirectly aiding al-Qaida by joining Western support for Syrian rebels. Some Islamic militant factions, claiming allegiance to al-Qaida, have joined forces seeking to topple the regime of Bashar Assad, one of Iran’s main allies in the region.
The two countries have no diplomatic relations after Canada unilaterally closed its embassy in Tehran in 2012 and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa.
Authorities were tipped off by members of the Muslim community