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FBI seeking more suspects in Via plot, U.S. politician reveals

A westbound Via train leaves Union Station in Toronto on April 22, 2013.


U.S. law-enforcement officials are investigating additional possible suspects in the Via Rail train plot, according to a congressman from New York.

The FBI is probing whether anyone else was involved in the alleged plan to derail a passenger train travelling between Toronto and New York. Two men were arrested last week in Canada.

"I think that they're looking at a number of suspects and potential suspects," Democratic Representative Brian Higgins, who has received classified briefings on the case, said in an interview.

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"Until an investigation is concluded, I don't think we'll know whether it's one, two or four or more suspects. But when you're talking about terrorist activity, a lot of these groups operate within the context of cells so there are connections, maybe not in the execution of it, but in the planning of it. Who knew about it? Was it being ordered from somewhere else to be played out in North America?"

The RCMP charged Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, on April 22 with plotting murder, terrorist recruitment and terrorism in connection with the alleged plan to derail a train. Investigators said the pair relied on "direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Iran.

A document tabled in court in Toronto last week suggests that Mr. Esseghaier interacted with a third individual as part of the alleged plot. However, that person's identity has not been revealed. A source told The Globe and Mail last week that a man had been questioned by FBI agents.

Mr. Higgins, who is a member of the House committee on homeland security and is the ranking member of the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence, said he expects more information on the case to be released by either the FBI or the FBI together with the RCMP. On Sunday, Mr. Higgins told CTV that an update would likely be provided by Tuesday. However, on Wednesday the congressman from Buffalo said the information hasn't yet been declassified because the investigation is continuing.

RCMP spokeswoman Corporal Laurence Trottier said the force has "no additional information" to release on the investigation.

Mr. Higgins is pushing for a hearing focused on the train plot that would explore the investigation as well as the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran. He said such a meeting, which would likely occur within the next two months, would hear expert witnesses from law-enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States.

"This is information-gathering and information-sharing toward taking this incident and being able to learn from it so as to bolster our bi-national efforts to continue to defeat terrorists when they threaten both our countries," he said.

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