By Chelsea J. Carter and Catherine Shoichet, (CNN) — Authorities have arrested two men accused of planning to carry out an al Qaeda-supported attack against a Canadian passenger train on one of its busiest routes, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Monday.
Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, are charged with “receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran” to carry out an attack and conspiring to murder people on a VIA railway train in the greater Toronto area, Assistant Police Commissioner James Malizia said.
“When I speak about supported, I mean direction and guidance,” he said.
Despite the allegation of links to al Qaeda in Iran, there was no evidence to suggest the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Malizia said.
Authorities said the suspects were not Canadian citizens, but declined to identify their nationality or how long they had been in Canada.
There was no link between the Canadian investigation and the Boston Marathon bomb attack, an official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told CNN on condition of anonymity.
Canadian authorities were tight-lipped about the planned time frame of the alleged attack except to say it was in the planning stage and not imminent.
“We are alleging these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to conduct a terrorist attack,” Police Capt. Jennifer Strackan told reporters.
“They watched trains and railways in the greater Toronto area.”
The alleged attack included a plan to derail a passenger train, she said.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quoted “highly placed sources” as saying the suspects were under surveillance for more than a year.
The CBC reported that the investigation was “part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Essenghaier, of Montreal, and Jaser, of Toronto, will make their first court appearance on Tuesday, police said.
News of the arrests came the same day Canada’s parliament debated an anti-terrorism bill.
CNN’s Steve Almasy and Paula Newton contributed to this report.