TEHRAN // Iran rejected as “ridiculous” on Tuesday a claim by Ottawa that two foreigners arrested in connection with a plot to derail a passenger train in the Toronto area were backed by Tehran-supported Al Qaeda.
“This is the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in my 64 years,” Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by ISNA as saying, adding that any suggestion that Al Qaeda is linked to Iran “is truly ridiculous”.
“We hope Canadian officials show a little wisdom and pay attention to the world’s public opinion and intelligence,” he added.Iran is a Shiite Muslim majority nation, while Al Qaeda is made up of Sunnis. Earlier today, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast also rejected the claim.
“We are against any kind of terrorist act … The extremist Canadian government has Iranophobia on its agenda and possibly, in continuation of its hostile approach, aims to link this to our country,” he added.
Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were allegedly planning to carry out an attack on a Via Rail passenger train, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
Esseghaier is believed to be Tunisian. Jaser is described in news reports as a Palestinian with UAE citizenship and also has permanent resident status in Canada.Assistant RCMP Commissioner James Malizia told reporters the suspects “were receiving support from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran” but added: “There’s no indication that these attacks were state-sponsored.”
When asked to describe the kind of support offered, he replied: “Direction and guidance”.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan said the duo — who had been under surveillance since August — planned “to derail a passenger train” in the Toronto area, though she would not specify on which route.
Canada broke diplomatic ties with Iran last September.