Tunisian-born Canadian doctoral student Chiheb Esseghaier, arrested as part of the Canadian “train plot,” is believed to have visited Iran at least once within the past two years, according to US officials.
Esseghaier’s visit adds to intrigue about the Canadian claims of “al-Qaeda in Iran” being involved in the plot, particularly since officials say he visited Zahedan, the always tense capital of Sistan-Balochistan.
While Iran is overwhelmingly Shi’ite, Zahedan is a Sunni-dominated city along the border with both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has been the site of terrorist attacks by Jundallah against its Shi’ite minority several times.
Jundallah at one time had ties with al-Qaeda itself, but it was eventually ditched for its domestic secessionist focus. Evidence was for years floating around of CIA backing for Jundallah, though in 2012 it was revealed that Israel’s Mossad had actually recruited the group to launch attacks against Iran, using US passports and paying in US dollars to give the impression they were a US mission.
The link to Zahedan gives the “al-Qaeda in Iran” story a bit more plausibility, as al-Qaeda is known to have had some ties there in the past, and Sunni jihadist groups of unknown affiliation continue to operate there, attacking Iranian targets with regularity. Several questions yet remain about who Esseghaier allegedly visited and what he did, but this revelation, if true, surely adds to the intrigue.