A Muslim man arrested last month in a terror plot in New York was planning to kill as many as 100,000 people by contaminating the air or water supply in a major U.S. city, the FBI alleges.
Ahmed Abassi, 26, was studying chemical engineering at Laval University in Quebec City, reports Canada’s CBC News.
Abassi’s plan did not materialize beyond discussions, but he is also being linked to Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two Canadian residents arrested in the alleged plot to derail a Via passenger train.
CBC News said American investigators have accused Abassi of fraudulently applying for a visa to stay in the U.S. to “facilitate an act of international terrorism.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Abassi “had an evil purpose for seeking to remain in the United States – to commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here, and to use this country as a base to support the efforts of terrorists internationally.”
Abassi traveled to the U.S. in March, according to Canadian authorities, but did not enter the country directly from Canada. Authorities say it’s unclear how he entered the U.S.
He left Canada for Tunisia before Dec. 25, 2012, but never returned to Canada, CBC News reported, citing the RCMP.
Law enforcement officials say Abassi helped radicalize at least one of the two Canadian residents arrested last month in the Via rail plot.
U.S. investigators say that while they were monitoring Abassi, he met with Esseghaier, 30, in New York City.
Officials noted in their statement that Esseghaier was “previously radicalized by Abassi.”
In New York City, Abassi, who was with Esseghaier and an undercover agent “discussed his desire to engage in terrorist acts against targets in the United States and other countries, and his intention to provide support and funding to organizations engaged in terrorist activity.”
Abassi, U.S. prosecutors said in a court brief, admitted to authorities he discussed with Esseghaier “plots to poison a water system and to derail a passenger train.”
Abassi is charged with two counts of knowingly making false statements to immigration authorities to carry out an act of international terrorism. He could face further charges.