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U.S. charges man linked to Canadian train attack plot with visa violations

A Via Rail Canada passenger train pulls into Dorval Station in Montreal, July 22, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best
A Via Rail Canada passenger train pulls into Dorval Station in Montreal, July 22, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities on Thursday filed visa fraud charges against a Tunisian man who prosecutors said had met with a key figure in an alleged plot to blow up a railroad line in Canada which carries Amtrak trains between Toronto and New York.

Prosecutors in New York said the man, Ahmed Abassi, had met in New York with Chiheb Esseghaier, another Tunisian, who is one of two men being held by Canadian authorities in connection with the alleged train plot.

The prosecutors said Abassi was responsible for radicalizing Esseghaier, and that he came to the United States in mid-March, where he remained until his arrest on April 22.

They said Abassi was under surveillance by U.S. authorities throughout his U.S. stay, and that he maintained regular contact during that time with what authorities described as an "FBI undercover officer."

The Justice Department said in a statement the undercover officer recorded conversations between Abassi and Esseghaier in which Abassi discussed his desire to "engage in terrorist acts against targets in the United States and other countries."

The government also said that he had been recorded discussing his desire to provide support and funding to militant groups, including the Nusrah front, an Islamist group which the U.S. says is a front for al Qaeda in Iraq and which is one of the most powerful rebel factions fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Prosecutors added that Abassi had told the FBI undercover officer about a number of people known to him and his associates who he said he thought would be "willing to engage in terrorism."

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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