A supporter of the Islamic State terrorist group in Canada was shot dead yesterday after hitting two soldiers in Quebec with a car, killing one. He was shot after he brandished a knife. The terrorist may have been inspired by an English-language Al-Qaeda magazine released in 2013.
The attacker, Martin Couture-Rouleau, went by the name of Ahmad Rouleau online. Associates say he became radicalized one year ago. His online postings show open support for the Islamic State and the caliphate.
Canadian officials say they were aware of his extremism before the attack. The authorities confiscated his passport months ago. Apparently, Rouleau preferred to go overseas but chose instead to carry out an attack inside Canada when that option became problematic.
Earlier this month, the Canadian government joined the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. It offered 69 advisors for Iraqi forces and nine aircraft, consisting of six fighter jets, one refueling plane and two surveillance aircraft.
Canada did not agree to join operations in Syria and said its commitment is only for six months. About 64% of Canadians supported the decision to take part in airstrikes against the Islamic State.
In September, the Islamic State released an audiotape calling on supporters to kill Canadians after it agreed to send special forces to Iraq as advisors and to assist with humanitarian aid deliveries. Islamic State spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said:
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State … kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s Deputy Director of Operations, Jeff Yaworski, says at least 50 Canadians have joined the Islamic State or other jihadist groups in the area. The Royal Mountain Canadian Police says it is aware of 90 people currently in Canada who desire to join the Islamic State overseas or have returned to the country after associating with terrorists.
Rouleau may have gotten the idea for this style of attack from the spring 2013 issue of Al-Qaeda’s English-language Inspire magazine. It is titled, The Lone Mujahid Pocketbook and it has detailed suggestions for “individual jihad;” attacks that can be carried out by a single individual. It also has tips for avoiding detection, such as using encrypted communications.
It was published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s affiliate in Yemen. AQAP announced its support for the Islamic State in August, but did not declare allegiance to its leader or endorse its declared caliphate.
The magazine recommends attacking Westerners with vehicles. One section recommends creating “the ultimate mowing machine” by obtaining a pickup truck and attaching sharpened blades to the front.
Other ideas in the widely-distributed magazine include :
- · Starting fires in forests, plantations and houses
- · Torching parked vehicles
- · Using lubricated oil to cause car crashes on highways
- · Using nails to create “tire-bursters” to cause car crashes
- · General bomb-making techniques and shooting tips
- · Creating chemical or mechanical explosions in buildings
There have been several hit-and-run jihad incidents on U.S. soil.
In 2009, Munir Muthanna was arrested in Rochester, New York for hitting six people with his car and colliding with two police cars. The prosecutor revealed that his family had ties to Yemen, a known Al-Qaeda stronghold.
Muthanna told police that he had six beers, a violation of sharia (Islamic law) that would seem to rule out an Islamist motivation. However, jihadists often commit sins and view their terrorist acts as a way of atoning for it.
During his interrogation, he expressed more than a tinge of Islamic supremacism. He told the police, “Ben Franklin was stupid. He should have made it so you [censored] can’t serve the law. The Muslims will fix this country.”
In 2009, an Iraqi named Faleh Hassan Almaleki of Arizona was arrested after running over his 20-year old daughter and her boyfriend’s mother with his car. Her crime was shaming the family by becoming “Westernized” and rejecting an arranged marriage. It was an “honor killing” justified by Islamist preaching.
On January 31, 2007, Ismail Yassin Mohamed went on a rampage in Minneapolis, Minnesota and hit a taxicab, a business and various vehicles. He even stole a school van. Those present quoted him as saying, “Allah made me do it” and repeatedly yelling “die” and “kill.”
He did not take his depression medication beforehand, but not everyone who misses their medication acts this way. It seems that Islamist sentiment was a deadly combination with mental instability in this case.
On March 3, 2006 when an Iranian named Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar injured nine people with a car at the University of North Carolina. He pled guilty and said he was inspired by Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers.
“My attack on Americans at UNC-CH March 3, was in retaliation for similar attacks orchestrated by the U.S. government on my fellow followers of Allah in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic territories. I did not act out of hatred for America but out of love for Allah instead,” he wrote.
Later that year, Omeed Aziz Popal used his SUV to kill one person and injure 18 in San Francisco. His wife was in Afghanistan as part of an arranged marriage. His lawyer and relatives said he was mentally ill, but sources in the investigation ruled that out.
Popal specifically targeted people near the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Two witnesses recalled him saying, “I’m a terrorist, I don’t care” as he was arrested.
In 2005, a Jordanian named Ali Rajai Warrayat slammed his car into a Home Depot in Chandler, Arizona. He told police he was protesting a possible security fence along the Mexican border, but the evidence suggests an Islamist motivation.
Warrayat had a Palestinian flag and Quran in the trunk, choosing against his earlier plan to wear the flag. He blasted Arabic music as he drove into the building. He purposely stopped in an area selling flammable goods and tried to set them on fire. Like most Islamists, Warrayat believed dogs are “filthy,” so he kept his dog and a cat in the trunk during the attack. The dog died and the cat disappeared.
When the police searched his computer, they found images of men setting off Molotov cocktails and a cartoon featuring dead children and a Middle Eastern flag.
The Islamic State supporter’s attack on Canadian soldiers is a product of Islamist advocating of “individual jihad.” Hit-and-run jihad is just one tactic.
More broadly, Rouleau’s violence is reflective of a shift from complicated 9/11-style attacks to simple attacks that maximize the chances of success. Jihadists no longer need to travel across continents for clandestine meetings to carry out attacks. They only need determination and Internet access.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.