Federal counterterrorism officers in Canada have charged a youth in connection with an alleged terrorist bomb plot in Kingston.
The youth, who cannot be identified by law, was charged with “counselling a person to deliver, place, discharge or detonate an explosive or other lethal device” in a public place, according to an RCMP statement on Friday.
He is also charged with “facilitating a terrorist activity.”
A 20-year-old man was also arrested Thursday but was released without charges Friday afternoon, according to the RCMP.
During a news conference on Friday, Canadian counterterrorism detectives said their investigation began in December following a tip relayed from their American counterparts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation relayed news of a potential “attack plot” being hatched in Canada, police say, but details about the scheme were scant.
In the weeks that followed, more than 300 officers from several forces teamed up to conduct surveillance and run down leads. During raids on residential properties in Kingston on Thursday, police say they found Trace elements of materials that could potentially be used in an homemade bomb – and exploded these materials to neutralize them.
No additional information is being released about the alleged attack plot’s targets, its underlying motivations, or potential ties to terrorist groups overseas.
Police are saying that this week’s terrorism bust has no links to unrelated threats that prompted a series of school lockdowns in the city last month. The two arrested men are said to be friends with one another, but it is not clear why one has been charged and the other has not. Police say they will have to either charge the adult suspect or let him go by the end of the day Friday.
The arrests took place on Thursday by heavily armed police tactical teams who surrounded residential houses in Kingston, a city located three hours east of Toronto. Residents of the city have remarked on aerial surveillance taking place by an RCMP plane weeks before the arrests.
There is no information suggesting the public was in any imminent danger.
The Mounties are thanking a series of law-enforcement partners for helping lay the groundwork for the arrests, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement and also several Canadian government border and intelligence agencies.
This week’s arrests follow weeks of speculation by Kingston residents about the possible use of a potential government surveillance plane hovering around the city. On Friday, the RCMP publicly confirmed that its “air assets” were involved in the investigation.
Local residents had been increasingly suspicious of a plane flying overhead in recent weeks. Valerie Gray says she started hearing it around Jan. 10, but couldn’t see anything above, likely because of cloud cover. On Jan. 13, the night cleared, and she saw what looked like a silhouette of a plane without any lights on it. “Every five minutes, it was flying over the house,” she told The Globe and Mail on Friday.
“It never showed up on any flight trackers,” she said. “I tried contacting [the Department of National Defence] as well as [Canadian Forces Base] Trenton to see if I could get any answers from them. No luck there at all. They didn’t even respond.”
Police searched two homes on Thursday. One was a small red-brick house close to the city’s downtown core. Police continued to hold the home under their control on late Friday morning, with cars blocking off the road. A large white van was parked outside the home.
Vanessa Macfarlane, who lives next door, had met the family several times before. They’d helped her move couches, and brought over food around Christmastime. She said one resident was an adolescent boy.
With a report from The Canadian Press