TORONTO — An encounter with local police while scouting a location for an alleged terror attack set two accused plotters on edge and ignited already simmering tensions between then, their trial heard Tuesday.
Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier face multiple terrorism-related charges in their alleged plot to derail a passenger train travelling from New York to Toronto. Not-guilty pleas have been entered for both men.
The trial has been hearing secret audio recordings of conversations the men had with an undercover FBI agent who gained their trust, including one where they were approached by police after being spotted walking along the railway bridge they allegedly targeted.
After being questioned and given a friendly warning by police not to walk on the tracks, the trial heard Jaser chastise Esseghaier and the undercover agent for not keeping a low profile.
“You guys are stupid,” an upset Jaser is heard saying. “We just compromised the location.”
Initially Jaser is heard saying they will have to find a new location, a course of action Esseghaier agrees with as he expresses his desire to continue with the plan, court heard.
But then Jaser muses about a different alleged plot involving a sniper, the trial 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, who adds that he would support the alleged sniper plot if it had more substance to it, also takes Jaser to task for saying they don’t need to follow every order Esseghaier has received from his overseas jihadist contacts.
Jaser’s comments had come as he expressed concerns with the viability of the train plot, particularly given that local police now knew they had been on the bridge, 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.”
When Esseghaier protests, Jaser is heard telling him he is “becoming a problem more than an asset.”
“I’m worried about you,” he is heard telling an agitated Esseghaier. “You have a very weird mind … very, very simplistic.”
Later that day, upon returning to Toronto, Esseghaier voices his concerns about Jaser to the undercover officer while Jaser isn’t around.
“He doesn’t have any plan, exactly,” Esseghaier is heard saying. “He started to be afraid. That’s the thing … we have to encourage him.”
Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested in April 2013.