Attackers in Canada recent converts to extremist Islam

Published October 24th, 2014 - 04:00 GMT

Two men accused of carrying out separate deadly attacks in Canada this week had recently converted to Islam and wanted to join the extremist fight, officials and local media said Thursday, Agence France Press reports.

Both men died in violence which officials called "terrorist attacks," the first such incidents tied to Islamic extremism ever to take place in Canada.

On Monday, 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau, from Quebec, shot down two soldiers near Montreal, killing one of them, before being shot dead by police as he emerged from his wrecked vehicle holding a knife.

Then on Wednesday, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, shot and killed a soldier who was on ceremonial guard at a war memorial in downtown Ottawa before storming into the nearby parliament building, where he was shot dead.

While Canada had never seen an extremist-inspired attack, authorities knew the country was at risk, and militants have recently made new threats of violence in retaliation for its role in the Middle East.

Canada participated in the war in Afghanistan, where 158 Canadian troops were killed between 2003 and 2011, and recently joined the US-led military coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

The Canadians have thwarted several attempted bomb plots since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, as well as disrupted terror networks that had targeted sites including the Toronto Stock Exchange, Parliament, and even a passenger train.

As Agence France Presse reports, the crude methods deployed in this week's attacks raise new questions on law enforcement's ability to act against "lone wolf" attackers. Lone attackers operate outside known militant hierarchies and seem to respond to more general calls for violence from radical preachers online.

According to initial investigations, Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau acted alone, and it's not yet clear to what extent their acts were premeditated.

The two men were converts to radical Islam, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Couture-Rouleau was "a terrorist" inspired by Islamic State jihadists.

Couture-Rouleau converted to Islam a year ago and now preferred to be called "Ahmad". In recent months, he increasingly had espoused extremist views to friends and online.

Zehaf-Bibeau had started using the name "Abdul" and had been banned from a Vancouver suburb mosque.

According to the Globe and Mail newspaper, he had links to Hasibullah Yusufzai, a Canadian accused of having joined the Islamic State group in Syria.

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