The investigation surrounding the planned attack was part of a cross-border operation involving Canadian law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The attack "was definitely in the planning stage but not imminent," RCMP chief superintendent Jennifer Strachan said Monday. "We are alleging that these two individuals took steps and conducted activities to initiate a terrorist attack. They watched trains and railways."
Strachan said they were targeting a route, but did not say whether it was a cross border route. Best said the duo had been under investigation since last fall.
Via Rail said that "at no time" were passengers or members of the public in imminent danger. Via trains_Canada's equivalent of Amtrak passenger trains in the U.S. — carry nearly 4 million passengers annually.
In Washington, Amtrak president Joe Boardman said the Amtrak Police Department would continue to work with Canadian authorities to assist in the investigation. Via Rail and Amtrak jointly operate trains between Canada and the U.S.
Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the arrests show that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada.
"Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activity," Toews said in the House of Commons.
U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said in a statement praising Canadian authorities for the arrests, that the attack was intended "to cause significant loss of human life including New Yorkers."
Muhammad Robert Heft, who runs an outreach organization for Islamic converts, and Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer and longtime advocate in the Muslim community, said one of the suspects is Tunisian and the other is from the United Arab Emirates. Heft and Hamdani were part of a group of Muslim community leaders who were briefed by the RCMP ahead of Monday's announcement.