Montreal - Police have foiled a plot to bomb the parliament of British Columbia as tens of thousands gathered to celebrate Canada's independence day, arresting two people allegedly "inspired by al-Qaeda," officials said on Tuesday.
John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody were detained on Monday, as the nation marked one of its biggest holidays - the annual 1 July Canada Day celebrated with fireworks and parades.
They had allegedly planned to use pressure cooker devices to blow up the building in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, on scenic Vancouver Island, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.
But Canadian secret services had long been aware of the plot, and had been shadowing the pair since February.
The explosive devices were "completely under our control, they were inert" and at no time was the public in danger, authorities said.
While Nuttall, aged 38, and Korody, whose age was given as either 28 or 29, were "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology," they appeared to be acting alone, police added.
"There is no evidence to indicate that these individuals had the support or were acting at the direction of a terrorist group, per se," police said.
The devices were seized outside the Victoria regional parliament on Monday as about 40 000 people gathered to celebrate the 146th year of independence for Canada.
There was no evidence linking the two arrested individuals to those behind the Boston Marathon bombing in April, who also used pressure cooker devices, or the two people arrested in Toronto the same month for a plot to bomb a passenger train, police said.
"I was incredibly relieved to know that they were working alone, that they were self-radicalized and didn't have ties to any other organisation," said provincial premier Christy Clark.
The RCMP had become involved "at a stage in the investigation that meant that there was never any real threat to the public".
"We cannot let this change us, we cannot let this event change who we are and how we use our public space. This space, this building belongs to the people of British Columbia," she added.
No international linkages
The two, who were arrested in Abbotsford, east of the city of Vancouver, were set to appear in court on Tuesday to face charges of conspiring to place an explosive in a place of public use or government facility with intent to cause death or serious harm.
"While the RCMP believes this threat was real, at no time was the security of the public at risk," said Assistant Commissioner James Malizia.
"These individuals were inspired by al-Qaeda ideology. Our investigation demonstrated that this was a domestic threat, without international linkages," he added.
Nuttall apparently lost his brother, killed in 2009 when a homemade bomb exploded as he was on patrol in Afghanistan. Nuttall had received a medal awarded posthumously to his brother at a ceremony in 2011 from the Governor General David Johnston.
But authorities stressed the Canadian soldier's death was not linked to his brother's role in the bomb plot.
"This self-radicalized behaviour was intended to create maximum impact and harm to Canadian citizens at the BC Legislature on a national holiday," said assistant RCMP commissioner Wayne Rideout.
"They took steps to educate themselves and produced explosive devices designed to cause injury and death."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the arrests "demonstrate that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada."
"Our government will continue to be vigilant, and will ensure that law enforcement and security agencies have the tools they need to protect Canadians and their families."