Break in foiled train attack case expected in next 48 hours: U.S. congressman
Published Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:43AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:57PM EDT
A top-ranking U.S. Democratic congressman says a break in the case of the alleged plot to attack a passenger train connecting Toronto and New York is imminent.
Congressman Brian Higgins, who represents a district in Western New York and is a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, told CTV’s Question Period in an interview that aired Sunday that he believes more information will be revealed in the next 48 hours.
“I suspect over the next 48 (hours) you’ll see good verifiable information about just who was involved, who were they connected with (and) were they acting alone,” Higgins said.
Higgins, who attended a committee on counterterrorism on Thursday, would not comment on what the break may be, but said he was “comfortable waiting” for the information to come from intelligence officials.
“I talked to a lot of people over the last several days, and some of the information people are more certain about it than others,” he said. “I would prefer to have good, verifiable information later than information that’s not reliable sooner.”
Since the alleged attacks were thwarted, Canadian and U.S. intelligence authorities have been working to uncover more details about the case.
Last week the RCMP announced the arrest of two suspects in connection with an alleged al Qaeda-backed terror plot to derail a passenger train running on the busy VIA Rail route linking Toronto and New York City.
The RCMP said the plot was supported by “al Qaeda elements” in Iran, but not state-sponsored.
Higgins said that the presence of al Qaeda – a Sunni organization—in Iran was a piece of “very valuable” information, as Iran is a country with a majority Shia-Muslim population.
“That there is an al Qaeda presence is a concern for both Canadian authorities and U.S. authorities ,” he said.
Raed Jaser, of Toronto, and Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, both appeared in court last week facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, participating in a terrorist organization and conspiracy to interfere with transportation facilities.
On Friday it was discovered that Esseghaier had been travelling outside of the country months before his arrest. U.S. authorities alerted the RCMP that he was on his way back to Canada in early April.
Higgins said he had no information on whether the suspects were possibly acting as recruiters for terrorist organizations, but said most terror-related activity in North America is based on fundraising.
“Based on our information about Hezbollah in North America, both in Canada and the United States, a lot of the activity right now is exclusive to fundraising activity,” he said. “I don’t see the distinction between a terrorist organization raising funds and terrorist activities, I think they’re one in the same.
“I don’t know if they were involved in recruiting but I suspect, again, within the next 48 hours we’ll have good information that will conclude whether or not there were more suspects,” he said.
Higgins said he is confident that law enforcement agents have a handle on the case and that he would have been notified if there were outstanding security concerns.
“I am confident that the public is safe relative to this incident.”