Tunisian charged in Amtrak terror plot

The FBI has charged a man arrested last month for allegedly trying to derail an Amtrak train near the Canadian border with attempting to “facilitate an act of international terrorism."

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The agency said this week that it was charging Tunisian citizen Ahmed Abassi with “fraudulently applying for a work visa in order to remain in the United States to facilitate an act of international terrorism,” according to charges filed in the Southern District of New York Court.

Abassi was arrested by Canadian police on April 22 in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings after he allegedly plotted to derail an Amtrak train that was traveling from New York to Toronto. 

FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said Abassi was being charged in the U.S. because he planned his alleged plot on the Amtrak train in New York.

“As alleged, Mr. Abassi came to the United States to pursue terrorist activity and support others in the same shameful pursuit,” Venizelos said in a statement announcing the charges against Abassi. 

“What Mr. Abassi didn’t know was that one of his associates, privy to the details of his plan, was an undercover FBI agent,” Venizelos said. “The FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force partners will continue working tirelessly to protect the country from those who seek to do us harm.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also said it was important to charge Abassi in the U.S. because he allegedly “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.”

“Thanks to the extraordinary vigilance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, Abassi has been thwarted and is being prosecuted for his alleged crimes,” Bharara said. “Protecting the residents of the Southern District, and all Americans, from terrorists is the number one priority of this office.”

Amtrak said at the time of the arrest of Abassi and another individual in April that it was working with police on the investigation into the alleged plot against its train.

The agency stressed after the arrest that its passengers were not in danger.

“There was not an imminent threat to Amtrak passengers, employees or the general public,” Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement released after the arrest.

“Amtrak has a variety of behind-the-scenes and frontline security measures to ensure passenger and employee safety and security,” Boardman continued. “Amtrak has explosive detection and vapor wake K-9 teams, trained employees to identify potential security risks, passenger and baggage screenings, and developed strong partnerships with local, state, federal and international agencies."