FBI agent who helped Canada nab railway terror plotters has one big regret -

FBI agent who helped Canada nab railway terror plotters has one big regret

Credit: ctvnews.ca

  • Oct 22 2017 18:35About: 1 month ago
  • 14 views

OTTAWA -- An undercover FBI agent who helped convict two men of plotting to derail a passenger train in Canada did not see the arrests as a triumph, because he feared another extremist had eluded his grasp.

In a new book published under his cover name from the operation, Tamer Elnoury reveals how gaining the confidence of the would-be rail saboteurs led to knowledge of an apparent al-Qaida sleeper terrorist in the United States.

Elnoury is still haunted by the thought of the jihadi who got away.

"Every time I hear about someone committing a terrorist act on U.S. soil, I wonder if that was the American sleeper," he writes.

"My biggest regret is that I couldn't find him."

Elnoury is among the small number of highly valued, Arabic-speaking Muslim agents doing undercover counter-terrorism work for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"American Radical" traces his involvement in the investigation that led to terrorism convictions and life sentences in 2015 for Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian citizen doing doctoral research in Montreal, and Raed Jaser, a stateless Palestinian who had come to Toronto as a teenager with his family.

Esseghaier "popped up on the FBI's radar" after he made contact with some al-Qaida operatives online, Elnoury writes. The FBI alerted Canadian officials, who opened their own investigation. Esseghaier had travelled to Iran twice in two years, arousing concern he was there for terrorist training.

Canadian intelligence tried to "bump" Esseghaier -- stage a casual meeting that seemed random -- during a 2011 conference in Mexico, the book says. "The Canadians didn't have a Muslim, so they used a Peruvian Christian. Chiheb's English wasn't that good. The hope was a native Arabic speaker would have a better chance."

Elnoury posed as a globetrotting American real estate magnate who despised western ways and funnelled his profits to his overseas uncle, a financier for al-Qaida.

In June 2012, Elnoury managed to ensure he and Esseghaier were seated together on a flight to California. They quickly became friends and Esseghaier was soon openly talking about shooting down planes with a portable missile launcher, the book says. Elnoury believes Esseghaier saw him as a like-minded ally with the money to help fund his operations.

Early that September, Elnoury, who had become close to Esseghaier, was called to a meeting in New York. A senior Canadian Security Intelligence Service official had flown in to hear what Elnoury knew about Esseghaier's plans to go fishing with someone.

Elnoury scoffed at the notion the intense Tunisian would ever go fishing, and advised that Esseghaier "is here to hurt us."

CSIS learned the fishing trip turned out to be a mission with Jaser to scout a railway bridge they planned to sabotage, sending a train that travels from New York to Toronto hurtling into the river below, killing many passengers.

The file, now a criminal matter, was handed to the RCMP and Elnoury was enlisted to gather evidence. He paid a visit to his friend in Montreal.

Elnoury portrays Esseghaier as zealously devoted to the extremist cause, but also someone who had a crush on a female colleague and enjoyed eating lobster and stopping in at Tim Hortons.

During a drive to Toronto to meet Jaser, Esseghaier confided details of the operation: al-Qaida planners in Iran ordered him to cut a hole in the train tracks. He and Jaser would use jackhammers to cut the track, while Elnoury would be needed to act as lookout.

Esseghaier told Elnoury he emptied his bank account in the spring of 2011, buying a one-way ticket to Tehran and planning to drive to Afghanistan, where he would die in battle. But in Zahedan, a town in southeastern Iran, he was recruited by al-Qaida. He returned the next year for training and was briefed on the train plot.

Esseghaier also said something that made Elnoury's heart race: there was a "soldier" in the U.S., an al-Qaida sleeper agent known as Al-Amriki, the American. Esseghaier expected to meet him one day.

"We needed to rethink the case," Elnoury writes. "Chiheb was our only link to the American sleeper. There was no way we could arrest him before we identified the other sleeper."

Planning for the train attack continued. But Elnoury pressed Esseghaier about meeting the sleeper. A key Iranian contact finally agreed it would be a good idea, and invited Esseghaier and Elnoury for a talk in Dubai.

Elnoury wanted to go, but he was skeptical the Canadians would let Esseghaier travel overseas at this point. In April 2013, Eric Holder, then U.S. attorney general, flew to Ottawa to discuss the Dubai idea, the book says.

However, the RCMP executed arrest warrants, ending the operation.

Elnoury understood the decision. The rail plot case was over. And just a week earlier, bombs had exploded at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds.

"Everyone was on edge," he writes. "No one wanted to let a terrorist slip out of our grasp."

But mostly Elnoury was angry. "I felt like the Canadians and the FBI wasted all of our hard work."

Elnoury did not consider the arrests a victory. "Best case, we tied. But really you could say we failed," he writes.

"Chiheb was a lot of things, but he was never a liar. Personally, I have no doubt that there was an American sleeper."



Follow Us on Twitter

undercover agent helped convict plotting derail passenger train Canada arrests triumph because feared another extremist eluded grasp.

Related stories with FBI agent who helped Canada nab railway terror plotters has one big regret

'A big hole in our heart': Parents mourn son who died in arena gas leak -World News
'A big hole in our heart': Parents mourn son who died in arena gas leak 1 month ago
The parents of a man who died with two others at an arena in Fernie, B.C., say their son was just starting to 'get his life back together' as a refrigeration expert when 'catastrophe' struck.
LSU stays ranked in the AP Top 25 after big win over Ole Miss -World News
LSU stays ranked in the AP Top 25 after big win over Ole Miss 1 month ago
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU will head into Alabama week ranked. What happens after that is yet to be seen. LSU (6-2, 4-1 SEC) defeated Ole Miss 40-24 Saturday, marking the Tigers’ third straight win since a surprise upset loss to Troy. Because of
Africa:Rescinded Appointment of President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa - NCD Alliance Response -World News
Africa:Rescinded Appointment of President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs in Africa - NCD Alliance Response 1 month ago
[NCD Alliance] Geneva -The NCD Alliance welcomes the announcement by WHO Director General Tedros that he has rescinded the appointment of President Robert Mugabe as a Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs for Africa, following serious concerns expressed by parties
Ferrari running big update package at Austin, split between drivers -World News
Ferrari running big update package at Austin, split between drivers 1 month ago
Ferrari has brought a raft of Formula 1 upgrades to the United States Grand Prix, but only Sebastian Vettel is running the full package
Africa:Stumble over Mugabe Challenges WHO Leadership -World News
Africa:Stumble over Mugabe Challenges WHO Leadership 1 month ago
[allAfrica] Washington, DC -A few days ago, the 'insider' development news organization Devex gave the new Director General of the World Health Organization a thumbs up for his first 100 days in office.
LATEST: Zimbabwe says it respects WHO decision on Mugabe -World News
LATEST: Zimbabwe says it respects WHO decision on Mugabe 1 month ago
Zimbabwe's government says it respects the decision by the World Health Organisation chief to withdraw the appointment of President Robert Mugabe as a "goodwill ambassador".
Aaron Jones has 70 yards on Packers’ first series -World News
Aaron Jones has 70 yards on Packers’ first series 1 month ago
Brett Hundley will have an easy day if the Saints can’t figure out how to stop the run. Rookie Aaron Jones started over Ty Montgomery and run wild on the Saints on the first series. He gained 70 yards on only four carries, including a 46-yard touchd
NFL lawyer tells judge Elliott has “no chance” of winning -World News
NFL lawyer tells judge Elliott has “no chance” of winning 1 month ago
The NFL strongly believes that the ultimate outcome of the Tom Brady litigation gives the league a clear path to victory over Ezekiel Elliott. During Tuesday’s hearing on Elliott’s petition for a temporary restraining order, NFL lawyer Dan Nas
UGA star Mecole Hardman has words of wisdom for Penn State fans chanting ‘We Want Bama’ -World News
UGA star Mecole Hardman has words of wisdom for Penn State fans chanting ‘We Want Bama’ 1 month ago
We know, we know. Penn State fans want Alabama. The Nittany Lions crowd made that abundantly clear during their joyful exuberance during a home win against Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team on Saturday night. "We want Bama!" pic.twitter.com/nuWyJ
Fight Islam and terrorism and run your politics in new video game -World News
Fight Islam and terrorism and run your politics in new video game 1 month ago
Fight ISIS and more in this new strategy game.
Randgold urges Ivorian government to ‘think big’ about mining’s role in economy -World News
Randgold urges Ivorian government to ‘think big’ about mining’s role in economy 1 month ago
Bristow said the country was highly prospective and had one of Africa’s most investor-friendly mining codes as well as a relatively modern infrastructure.
UK police rule out terrorism at leisure complex incident -World News
UK police rule out terrorism at leisure complex incident 1 month ago
LONDON (Reuters) - British police said on Sunday they were dealing with an "ongoing incident" at a leisure park in Nuneaton, central England, that was not connected to "any terrorist activity" after reports that a gunman had taken two staff members hostag