U.S. prosecutors have charged a third man in connection with an "al-Qaeda-supported" plot to derail a passenger train at the Canada-U.S. border, the Globe and Mail reported Thursday.
According to the report, authorities in New York unsealed an indictment Thursday against Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian citizen, who used to reside in Canada, with fraudulently applying for a work visa in order to remain in the United States to facilitate an act of international terrorism.
Abassi was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation on April 22, 2013, but the charges against him were sealed until Thursday, noted the Globe and Mail. The RCMP arrested two men in Canada that same day -- Chiheb Esseghaier, also a Tunisian national, and Raed Jaser, a Canadian immigrant who claimed to have been “of Palestinian heritage.”
The RCMP has accused the suspects they arrested of a murderous "al-Qaeda-supported" plot to derail a passenger train as it crossed the Canada-U.S. border, and recruiting an unnamed person to advance that conspiracy.
Abassi is accused of entering the United States specifically to advance a terrorism plot, the report said.
“As alleged, Ahmed Abassi had an evil purpose for seeking to remain in the United States – to commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here, and to use this country as a base to support the efforts of terrorists internationally," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York in a statement.
"Thanks to the extraordinary vigilance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, Abassi has been thwarted and is being prosecuted for his alleged crimes. Protecting the residents of the Southern District, and all Americans, from terrorists is the number one priority of this office.”
U.S. authorities allege that Abassi travelled to the United States from Canada in mid-March 2013, where he was put under surveillance by law enforcement agents at all times.
It's alleged that, while in New York in early April, he had met Esseighaier there, during a short visit the latter man made to the city prior to his arrest in his adopted hometown of Montreal.
U.S. authorities allege that Abassi had radicalized Esseghaier previously, and that he had been recruiting or trying to recruit others, and that he expressed hopes of supporting al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq.
It is alleged that Abassi was caught making recorded remarks to an undercover FBI informant, discussing "his desire to engage in terrorist acts against targets in the United States and other countries, and his intention to provide support and funding to organizations engaged in terrorist activity," according to the Globe and Mail.
The FBI says that 10 days before the arrests, Abassi was caught discussing plots to get fake U.S. work permits in order to "remain in the United States so that he could engage in ‘projects’ relating to future terrorist activities, including recruitment."
According to documents quoted by the newspaper, while in New York, the conspirators were allegedly overheard arguing about the best way to advance terrorist actions, mulling everything from financing jihadist groups overseas to a deadly bacterial assault.
It has been previously revealed that Canada had previously tried to deport the second suspect it caught, Raed Jaser, but did not do so after he claimed to be a “stateless Palestinian”.