WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two of the Via Rail terror suspects allegedly contemplated poisoning the air or water before settling on the plot to target a passenger train, according to newly released U.S. court documents.
The fresh details came to light Thursday as American authorities revealed an FBI sting operation scooped up a third man in connection to the foiled plot to derail a train between Toronto and New York.
Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian citizen who previously lived in Canada, has been charged with two counts of knowingly making false statements in an application to immigration authorities for a green card and work visa, in order to facilitate an act of international terrorism.
“As alleged, Mr. Abassi came to the United States to pursue terrorist activity and support others in the same shameful pursuit. What Mr. Abassi didn’t know was that one of his associates, privy to the details of his plan, was an undercover FBI agent,” said FBI assistant director-in-charge George Venizelos in a statement.
Authorities arrested Abassi at New York’s JFK airport on April 22, the same day Canadian law enforcement nabbed Chiheb Esseghaier, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, of Toronto.
In its release, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges Abassi was responsible for radicalizing Esseghaier and met with him in New York City after travelling to the U.S. in mid-March. It is unclear where Abassi lived in Canada or how long he was there.
In recorded conversations with Esseghaier and the undercover FBI agent, Abassi allegedly talked about his desire to commit terrorist acts in the U.S. and other countries and his intention to provide support to terror organizations including an al-Qaida affiliate based in Iraq called the al-Nusrah Front.
It’s also alleged he had plans to recruit others to his cause.
Court documents released by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York describe how Abassi and Esseghaier worked to hatch the alleged plan including that “the defendant noted that he had suggested an alternative plot — contaminating the air or water with bacteria in order to kill up to 100,000 people — but that Esseghaier was dismissive of that plan.”
The Department of Justice only unsealed Abassi’s indictment Thursday.
Esseghaier and Jaser appeared in Canadian court April 23 and were charged with a series of terrorism-related offenses, including conspiring to murder people and to interfere with transportation facilities for a terrorist group….