Tip From Imam Led To Break Up Of Canadian Terror Plot
A tip from a Toronto imam sparked an investigation that culminated in the arrests of two men who allegedly plotted to derail a Via passenger train.
The imam alerted authorities more than a year ago about a person he regarded as an extremist who was corrupting youth in his community.
That single tip led to what the RCMP on Monday called the first-ever Canadian bust of an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist plot.
The RCMP believes that two men, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were planning to derail a Via passenger train on the Canadian leg of its Toronto-New York route. The actual imam who phoned in the initial tip to authorities remains anonymous. But community sources confirm his involvement.
“More than a year ago, a client of mine, an imam in the Toronto Muslim community, became concerned after noticing the activities of one of the individuals now under arrest,” Toronto lawyer Naseer Syed told The Globe and Mail, referring to notes he had taken last year.
The men were taken into custody Monday in Montreal and Toronto. They face several criminal charges, including plotting murder, terrorist recruitment and terrorism.
The nation’s top counterterrorism police officials briefed reporters about the arrest Monday, but not before they made a point of summoning about 20 leaders of Toronto’s Islamic community to a meeting.
The message from authorities to the Muslim community? Thank you for a helping hand.
“The first comment they made, and they encouraged us to make it a talking point, is that, but for the Muslim community’s intervention, we may not have had the success we’ve had,” said Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer who was invited to the pre-briefing.
Because the Toronto suspect was allegedly seen trying to spread extremist propaganda to youth, the imam felt obliged to alert the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and RCMP to these activities.
Alarmed by Mr. Jaser’s “attempts to approach young Muslims,” the imam “took the initiative to notify the authorities.” Mr. Syed said.
This isn’t unique. There have been similar cases here in the United States where members of the Muslim community have alerted authorities to what they found to be suspicious activity in their community. If nothing else, it puts the lie to much of the rhetoric that comes from the anti-Muslim crowd on the right.