Terrorism in Canada: Reminder of Western vulnerabilities

Terrorism in Canada: Reminder of Western vulnerabilities

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WASHINGTON, October 22, 2014 — Preliminary information from the Canada terrorist attack suggests at least some involvement of ISIS or al-Qaeda, and demonstrates the continued global terrorist threat.

Two shootings rocked Ottawa at approximately 10am this morning. One gunman accessed the Canadian parliament building while another attacked a soldier at the Canada War Memorial near Parliament.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking in Parliament at the time of the assault, but was unharmed.

According to Canadian authorities, the gunman inside the parliament was shot and killed. Authorities also say they cannot confirm whether the gunman inside Parliament, who killed  Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, was the same individual who killed Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo as he was guarding the War Memorial.

Downtown Ottawa remained in lock-down hours after the attacks, as authorities sought to piece together information. Ottawa Police Constable Chuck Benoit told media there was more than one person involved in the shooting, and that Canadian citizen Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was the shooter who was killed inside Parliament. Authorities continue to seek the second gunman.

Yesterday, a radicalized Islamic convert ran down two Canadian soldiers with his car near Montreal, killing one before being shot by police.

The incidents mark the first fatal terrorist attacks liked to Islamic militants in Canada. Earlier this month, Canada announced it would support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

Although it is not yet clear who was responsible for the attack, the sophisticated, coordinated attacks suggest that it was not the work of a “homegrown terrorist” or a “loan wolf.” Instead, they likely were at least orchestrated by ISIS or al-Qaeda. Terrorist groups likely targeted Ottawa because tight security in Washington and London would have diminished chances of a successful terrorist attack in those locations.

The attacks come only days after ISIS called on followers to target police and soldiers in Western countries. There are no known international terrorist attacks by ISIS, and the group may be attempting to flex its muscles outside of the Middle East to show its strength to followers and to terrorize the world. The predecessor to ISIS successfully carried out coordinated attacks against U.S. hotels in Jordan in 2005.

Last month, authorities in Australia thwarted a plot by an individual affiliated with ISIS to carry out a beheading on camera.

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, may have planned the attacks to reassert itself on the international stage and attempt to regain some of the press recently dominated by ISIS. Analysts previously had warned that al-Qaeda may resort to a renewed campaign of global terrorism to revive its “brand,” which has recently been eclipsed by ISIS.

Other terrorist offshoots could be responsible for the attack in an effort to raise their own standing among militants.

It is also possible that the gunman did act alone, and was “inspired” by ISIS and al-Qaeda. Even this possibility demonstrates the long reach of Islamic terrorists and their ability to foment terrorism.

This is not the first time Canada has faced a terrorist threat. In 2006, the anti-terror squad of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested 17 Canadian Muslims from the Toronto area for plotting to blow up the Toronto Stock Exchange, storm Parliament and behead the Prime Minister. Two of the men were originally from Somalia and the other 15 were from South Asia.

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Lisa M. Ruth
Lisa M. Ruth is Editor-in-Chief of CDN. In addition to her editing and leadership duties, she also writes on international events, intelligence, and other topics. She has worked with CDN as a journalist since 2009. Lisa is also President of CTC International Group, Inc., a research and analysis firm in South Florida, providing actionable intelligence to decisionmakers. She started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service. She holds an MA in international relations from the University of Virginia, and a BA in international relations from George Mason University. She also serves as Chairman of the Board of Horses Healing Hearts, and is involved with several other charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and AYSO.