Canada has experienced a ‘lone wolf’ attack as tragic events unfolded in which two soldiers were deliberately run over at the Canadian military office in the Quebec town of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu about 40km (25 miles) south-east of Montreal. This culminated in a car chase and the inevitable death of the perpetrator, Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25. One of the soldiers died of his injuries hours after the attack, while the other suffered from less serious wounds.
After striking the officers, Couture-Rouleau fled and was chased by police at high speed for about 4km (2.5 miles), until the car drove off the road and rolled over several times.
He then left the car brandishing a knife, and police opened fire. Couture-Rouleau was taken to hospital where he died some hours later.
RCMP had earlier seized Couture-Rouleau passport as he had attempted to travel to Turkey and was known to police who had held an interview with Martin two weeks earlier. Supt Fontaine said authorities had met him several times, most recently on 9 October, and had met his parents and the imam at his mosque in an effort to get him to change his views.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner Bob Paulson said authorities had been tracking the group – including Couture-Rouleau – because they may have intended to go abroad to join militant groups.
Earlier this month the country’s parliament voted in favour of sending fighter jets and military personnel to join in the US-led combat operation against IS in Iraq.
Although terror attacks in Canada have been rare, a number of plots have been thwarted. The most notorious was the so-called Toronto 18 case in 2006, where a group of al Qaida-inspired extremists were convicted of planning to attack a number of targets, including the parliament buildings.
Nevertheless, critics have accused both the police and the intelligence agencies of being slow to respond to the more recent challenge posed by ever-sophisticated extremist propaganda. This type of “lone wolf” attack is the most dangerous and unpredictable.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman David Falls said Rouleau was known to federal authorities that “were concerned that he had become radicalised”.
Neighbours said the 25-year-old converted to Islam just little over a year ago. He started wearing a tunic, sprouted a heavy beard and spent most of his time alone.
Another friend said he believed depression led Rouleau to retire into himself and obsessively turn to the internet for answers.
“It was weird. He was normal one day and then changed the next,” said Jonathan Prince.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the incident as “extremely troubling.”