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Canada Muslims highlight role as tipsters in train plot

TORONTO/OTTAWA--Canada's Muslim community, which alerted police to an alleged plot to attack a passenger train that led to two arrests this week, said Tuesday imams were ready to report radical members who seemed ready to cross a line.

Police arrested Raed Jaser of Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal on Monday and said they had been investigating them since last fall after a tip from the Muslim community in Toronto.

In a brief court appearance in Montreal, a bearded Esseghaier made a brief statement in French in which he rejected allegations against him. Jaser appeared in court earlier Tuesday in Toronto and also did not enter a plea.

Naseer Irfan Syed, a lawyer who initially approached police on behalf of a Toronto imam who was concerned about Jaser, said community figures had to figure out what was just angry talk.

“People have to realize that the community leaders and imams are concerned about these accusations and are responsible people and they will report to the authorities when necessary,” he told Reuters.

“But at the same time they will also exercise judgment so it is not done frivolously or in a knee-jerk fashion,” he said. Syed declined to name the imam who spoke with police.

Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stood up in Parliament Tuesday to thank the Muslim community.

'What makes us very different from the United States'

Canadian police briefed Muslim representatives before publicly announcing the arrests on Monday, something they have done in similar cases in the past.

Christian Leuprecht, an expert in terrorism at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, said the tip-off reflected extensive efforts by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to improve Muslim ties.

“One of the key things, and what makes us very different from the United States, is that the RCMP has always very explicitly separated building relationships with local communities from the intelligence gathering side of the house,” he told Reuters.

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