OTTAWA, CANADA - Authorities across the border have charged two men with conspiring to carry out a major terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train.
The RCMP say Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, who live in the Montreal and Toronto area, were planning to carry out an attack against a VIA Canadian Rail train.
Sources tell the CBC the suspects have been under surveillance for more than a year in both Quebec and southern Ontario.
The two are charged with conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.
The investigation, dubbed "Project SMOOTH", was coordinated by RCMP-led Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams with help from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Toronto Police, York Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Durham Regional Police and others.
"Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia. "I want to re-assure our citizens that, while the RCMP believed the accused had the capacity to and intent to carry out these criminal acts, there was no imminent threat to the general public, rail employees, train passengers or infrastructure."
Authorities said the suspects had help from Al Qaeda elements in Iran.
The route of the targeted train reportedly runs between Toronto and New York City. In the U.S., that train is operated by Amtrak and stops in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, before crossing the border at the Whirlpool Bridge.
"Every time that there's been a some kind of terrorist incident, we we've put additional security on here at Niagara Falls because we know this is a famous place," Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said. "And just like terrorists might seek attention by blowing off bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, so too Niagara Falls because it's a famous place."
The RCMP says the threat was caught early thanks to those collaborative efforts on both sides of the border.
Law enforcement officials say this incident has no connection to the Boston Marathon bombings.