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Canadian authorities have arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out an “al-Qaeda inspired” attack on a passenger train in Toronto.

At a news conference, the authorities said the suspects Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were arrested in Montreal and Toronto on Monday.

They allegedly planned to derail a VIA passenger train in the greater Toronto area. It was not clear when.

The suspects will now appear in court on Tuesday for a bail hearing.

Canadian authorities have arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out an "al-Qaeda inspired" attack on a passenger train in Toronto

Canadian authorities have arrested and charged two people with conspiring to carry out an “al-Qaeda inspired” attack on a passenger train in Toronto

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the surveillance operation leading to the arrests of the two suspects was “a result of extensive collaborative efforts”.

They said the two men were not Canadian citizens and were supported by “al-Qaeda elements in Iran” but there was no evidence of state sponsorship.

Their plan was to derail a train and “kill and hurt people”.

Chief Spt. Jennifer Strachan said the two men had sought to target “a specific route, but not necessarily a specific train”.

VIA operates passenger rail services across Canada.

At the same time, the RCMP said they believed the plot was in the planning stage and “there was no imminent threat to the general public”.

“Each and every terrorist arrest the RCMP makes sends a message and illustrates our strong resolve to root out terrorist threats and keep Canadians and our allies safe,” Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said.

The RCMP also said that FBI agents from the US were involved in the operation to foil the attack.

There was no connection between the plot and last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, a US justice department official was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

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Adlene Hicheur, a French physicist at the prestigious CERN laboratory has been sentenced to five years in prison for plotting terrorist attacks.

Adlene Hicheur was arrested in 2009 after police intercepted his emails to an alleged contact in al-Qaeda.

The emails suggested Algerian-born Adlene Hicheur was willing to be part of an “active terrorist unit”, attacking targets in France.

Defense lawyers argued that their client had never been part of a plot.

Adlene Hicheur, who is a particle physicist, worked as a researcher studying the origins of the universe at CERN.

His father embraced him in the Paris courtroom before he was taken away to prison.

Adlene Hicheur, 35, has already spent two and a half years in jail while awaiting trial.

He came under suspicion when threatening messages were sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy in early 2008.

The security services uncovered a series of email exchanges between Adlene Hicheur and an alleged al-Qaeda member called Mustapha Debchi.

After his arrest in 2009 police found a large quantity of Islamist literature at his parents’ home.

At the start of his trial the scientist admitted that he had been going through a psychologically “turbulent” time in his life when he wrote the emails.

Adlene Hicheur had suffered a serious back injury, for which he had been taking morphine.

But he always denied he intended to carry out any attacks.

His lawyer, Patrick Baudouin, described the verdict as “scandalous”.

“Everything has been done to demonize him,” he said.

Adlene Hicheur has not yet decided whether or not to appeal.

If he decides not to, with time off for good behavior, he should be released soon, Patrick Baudouin said.