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OTTAWA - A terror suspect recently arrested in the United States did not enter that country from Canada, the federal government said Friday.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggested the Tunisian-born man, who had been studying in Canada, could not actually have been here when he entered.
"When we became aware of security concerns, he was back in Tunisia, and his study permit was not renewed," Kenney told a news conference.
Ahmed Abassi was arrested last month in the U.S. and accused of planning an "act of international terrorism." He is accused of having ties to one of the two men suspected of plotting an attack on a passenger train in Ontario. He has pleaded not guilty.
The ties to Canada were being downplayed in Ottawa.
Given the economic importance of Canada-U.S. border movement, the federal government is sensitive about the country's interests being damaged by security concerns.
This country has been repeatedly, and erroneously, linked over the years to some of the 9-11 suspects and the Canadian government has aggressively combatted misinformation about terrorist ties.
Kenney addressed that general theme Friday.
"I think Canada has, frankly, had much less serious problems with terrorist-related security threats, home-grown terrorism than many other Western countries — including the United States," Kenney said.
"Having said that, we can and must not be complacent."
Laval University in Quebec City held a brief news conference regarding its former student.
The event consisted of the university rector reading a 48-second statement in French, repeating it in English, and saying there would be no further comment.
He said Laval University is co-operating with authorities in the investigation.
"All we can do is express our surprise and assure the media, and the whole public, that we will collaborate with the authorities leading this investigation," said Denis Briere, the university rector.
"As for Mr. Abassi's identity, as with any request for information on a student at Universite Laval, we are held to confidentiality in personal information."
He repeated in Canada's other official language, then left.
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