Alleged Via train plot unravelled after police encounter, trial hears

A brief brush with police triggered the unravelling of an alleged terror plot to derail a passenger train in the name of radical Islam, the trial for the two men suspected of masterminding the scheme heard Tuesday.

Raed Jaser recorded telling Chiheb Esseghaier and undercover agent to 'get somebody else'

VIA attack plot

7 years ago
New details are revealed at the trial of two men accused of plotting to attack a VIA train 3:05

A brief brush with police triggered the unravelling of an alleged terror plot to derail a passenger train in the name of radical Islam, the trial for the two men suspected of masterminding the scheme heard Tuesday.

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier still seemed determined to carry out an attack that would take people's lives, court heard, but after the incident they had different ideas on how to do it.

Chiheb Esseghaier, left, and Raed Jaser, centre, each face multiple terrorism-related charges in an alleged plot to derail a Via train. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Jaser and Esseghaier face multiple terror-related charges in the alleged plan to attack a train travelling from New York to Toronto. Not-guilty pleas have been entered for both men.

The first cracks in the alleged train plot appeared when they spent a day in September 2012 surveying a railway bridge they allegedly planned to sabotage with the help of an undercover FBI agent who gained their trust, court heard.

Secret audio recordings of conversations between the men which were played in court revealed the increasingly strained relationship between the two accused as Jaser expressed his concerns about their ability to damage the bridge.

'Get somebody else...I cannot help you'

Those tensions boiled over when three friendly police officers questioned the men about why they had been on the tracks, the trial heard, leading Jaser to eventually abandon the train plot entirely mere hours later.

"Get somebody else. That's what I'm telling you. I cannot help you," Jaser is heard telling Esseghaier and the undercover agent in a conversation that night. "It's no good for me. It's compromised for me."

Jaser, however, was still willing to go ahead with an alternative plan, his trial heard.

"There's many other things we can do in this lovely place," he is heard saying. "We have to do what is right."

Jaser's backing out of the original plot incensed Esseghaier, who berated him in conversations played in court.

"You are scared that you go to the jail," he is heard saying, adding that he and the undercover officer will search for "another believer." "We don't want people who is scared ... we want people that scare only from Allah."

Jaser, meanwhile, is heard telling an agitated Esseghaier that he is "very rash."

"It's not about's about success. There's a difference," he is heard saying.

Later, when Esseghaier isn't around, Jaser explains himself further to the undercover agent.

"The fact that we were rushing this is the problem that we have now," he says. "We have complete blockade...You cannot do nothing with tracks anymore."

Talk of using sniper

Jaser's alleged alternative plan involved using a sniper to target prominent members of Canadian society and "rich Jews," court heard.

"I'll work on that...we can go hunting," he is heard telling the undercover officer. "The head of the snake is right here."

Jaser had mused about the alleged sniper plan earlier that day as well, court heard.

"You think they care about the life of 50 people on a train? ... They don't give a damn," he is heard saying. "But the rich Jew ... when you take 50 of them out what happens? You will drive them crazy."

Esseghaier is heard expressing concern with the alleged sniper plot due to the lack of detail in Jaser's plan.

"My question is how," he asks Jaser repeatedly. "We are weak. We don't have the facilities to kill those elders ... do you have a weapon? ... You don't have even one...sniper."

Esseghaier also takes Jaser to task for saying they don't need to follow every order Esseghaier claims he has received from his overseas jihadist contacts.

Jaser's comments had come as he expressed concerns with the viability of the train plot, court heard.

"Your mission ... is to follow orders from the brothers ... but you see when you come to fulfil your orders here, you do things according to the reality that's on the ground," Jaser was heard saying.

"If you wanna take down this ... we can do it, but we're gonna do it our way. Not their way, you see, because we're in Canada, we're not in Kandahar. It's a completely different situation here."

Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested in April 2013.