Canadian authorities have arrested two men accused of planning to carry out an al Qaeda-supported attack against a passenger train traveling between Canada and the United States, a U.S. congressman told CNN on Monday.
"As I understand it, it was a train going from Canada to the U.S.," Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee, said.
The news follows an announcement earlier in the day by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that they had arrested Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35.
The two men are charged with "receiving support from al Qaeda elements in Iran" to carry out an attack and conspiring to murder people on a VIA railway train in the greater Toronto area, Assistant Police Commissioner James Malizia said.
"When I speak about supported, I mean direction and guidance," he said.
Despite the allegation of links to al Qaeda in Iran, there was no evidence to suggest the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Malizia said.
Iran vehemently denied the allegations that al Qaeda was operating inside its borders.
"Iran's position against this group is very clear and well known," according to a statement released by Iran's mission to the United Nations.
"Al Qaeda has no possibility to do any activity inside Iran or conduct any operation abroad from Iran's territory, and we reject strongly and categorically any connection to this story."
Neither the Canadian authorities nor King identified the exact route of the targeted train.
Essenghaier, of Montreal, and Jaser, of Toronto, will make their first court appearance on Tuesday, police said.
Authorities said the suspects were not Canadian citizens, but declined to identify their nationality or how long they had been in Canada.
Essenghaier has been a doctoral student at the National Institute of Scientific Research at the University of Quebec since 2010, Julie Martineau, the university spokeswoman, said.
He was conducting research on nanosensors, which are primarily used for medical treatments or to build other nanoproducts, such as computer chips, she said.
"I cannot comment on any behavior issues. He seemed like a normal student," Martineau said.
There was no link between the Canadian investigation and the Boston Marathon bomb attack, an official with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told CNN on condition of anonymity.
Canadian authorities were tight-lipped about the planned time frame of the alleged attack except to say it was in the planning stage and not imminent.
"We are alleging these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to conduct a terrorist attack," Jennifer Strachan of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters.
"They watched trains and railways in the greater Toronto area."
The alleged attack included a plan to derail a passenger train, she said.