USA TODAY: Canadian police and intelligence services arrested two suspects Monday who allegedly planned to derail a passenger rail train in Greater Toronto in what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police called a "major terrorist attack."
The plot was not connected to the Boston Marathon bombings, officials said.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said at an afternoon news conference that Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, had received "direction and guidance" from "al-Qaeda elements" in Iran, but that there is no indication they were "state-sponsored."
Neither suspect is a Canadian citizen. The RCMP would not identify their nationalities or say how long they had been in the country, but Superintendent Douglas Best said they had been in Canada a "considerable period of time."
The National Postand The Globe and Mail reported that at least one of the men -- Esseghaier -- is Tunisian.
Esseghaier studied at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec and then did doctoral research at the Institute National de Recherche Scientifique in Varennes, Quebec, Radio-Canada reported. He worked in a lab developing biosensors.
The two men are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in Toronto. They are charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and "conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group."
RCMP Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachans said that the suspects had watched trains and railways around Toronto. She and Malizia stressed that the public and rail employees were never in any danger.
"It was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent," she said.
Strachans said the plot involved "a specific route but not a specific train," but she and other officials would not say which route. Law enforcement sources told Reuters the target was the Toronto-to-New York route.
VIA Rail jointly operates Toronto-to-Niagara Falls trains with Amtrak, which continues service to New York City. Amtrak's Maple Leaf runs between New York City and Toronto.
"We are aware of the ongoing investigation and will continue to work with Canadian authorities to assist in their efforts," Amtrak said in a statement.
Sources told CBC News that the men had been under surveillance for more than a year in Quebec and southern Ontario.
"This is the first known al-Qaeda plan or attack that we've experienced," Best said.
The cross-border investigation was coordinated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson congratulated the RCMP for the arrests.
"This is an example of the United States and Canada working together to protect our citizens. It underscores the fact that we face serious and real threats, and that security is a shared responsibility," he said in a statement. "We all need to remain vigilant in confronting threats and keeping North America safe and secure."