Working on a tip from the American FBI, Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved against 24-year-old Aaron Driver, an Islamic State supporter, and killed him after a tense standoff on Wednesday, before Driver could carry out a planned suicide bomb attack.
Reuters reports the raid was conducted in the small Ontario town of Strathroy, 140 miles south of Toronto. When the police confronted Driver, he detonated an explosive device, injuring himself and another person.
“I hear a bomb sound, like a ‘bang’ – I was freaking out because this is a small and quiet town,” said eyewitness Irene Lee. “All of a sudden the policemen were yelling, ‘everyone get into your houses.'”
According to The Sun, the other person injured in the explosion was a taxi driver. Driver was shot dead by the RCMP after setting off the bomb.
The Globe and Mail says Driver planned to take the taxi to a shopping mall in nearby London, Ontario. A CBC report adds that police informed Driver’s family that he “had another device, and planned to detonate it,” presumably in a suicide attack at the shopping mall. The FBI tip to Canadian authorities concerned an imminent “rush-hour attack in a major Canadian city.”
Driver was a perfect example of the “known wolf” jihadi, an individual who was very much on law enforcement’s radar screen, long before he attempted to murder innocents in the name of the Islamic State.
A Muslim convert who sometimes used the alias Harun Abdulrahman, Driver was “under a court order from earlier this year to not associate with any terrorist organization, including ISIS,” as NBC News puts it.
“In February, Driver’s lawyer and the prosecutor agreed to a peace bond stating there are ‘reasonable grounds to fear that he may participate, contribute directly or indirectly in the activity of a terrorist group,'” NBC adds.
In Canada, a “peace bond” is essentially a form of extended probation – the signatory promises to “keep the peace” for a period of up to one year, or face criminal charges.
“Obtaining a peace bond may take several weeks or even months, so peace bonds do not deal with emergencies. In an emergency, call 911,” Canada’s Department of Justice helpfully suggests. One such emergency would be when a jihadi is able to build multiple bombs, in spite of being theoretically under law-enforcement surveillance because he’s a known terrorist sympathizer.
According to the Globe and Mail, the conditions of Driver’s peace bond included “wearing a GPS tracking device, not using the Internet or having any communication with Islamic State, including not having any object on his person that bore an Islamic State logo.” That would make him the second jihadi to carry out a violent attack while wearing a GPS tracker in the past month.
“The restrictions drew criticism from civil liberties activists in Manitoba,” adds the Globe and Mail.
The lawyer who helped him work out that peace bond, Leonard Tailleur, said he was “shocked” and “saddened to hear that it had to end this way for him.”
Perhaps Tailleur would be a bit less shocked if he studied the statements that brought Driver to the attention of police. In June 2015, he gave CBC a 90-minute interview in which he defended terrorist attacks against Canadian civilians by Islamists, and specifically stated that “when it does happen, they shouldn’t act surprised,” because “they had it coming to them, they deserved it.”
The reason CBC wanted to interview Driver for 90 minutes is that he was arrested by the RCMP, which confiscated his “custom-made computer, phone, flash drives, and Koran,” because he had been posting blood-curdling holy warrior messages on social media, justifying the terrorist murder of soldiers and police officers.
The Globe and Mail notes that under his Harun Abdulrahman name, Driver had a “network of friends and followers who consisted mainly of British Muslims fighting for the Islamic State on the ground or online.”
“I think the big issue is I’m a Canadian living in Canada, and I’m OK with soldiers or police officers being targeted for what they’re doing to Muslims,” he said, correctly identifying something that should have been an even bigger issue with the authorities. “I think it’s a little hypocritical that people would take issue with people retaliating against them… when it’s the police and the military who are killing Muslims.”
He said that after he was arrested, the police kept asking him about Twitter messages from ISIS fighters and recruiters he had retweeted. “Driver doesn’t remember the exact motivation behind the retweet, but said he believes he found it funny at the time,” wrote CBC.
In that lengthy interview, Driver said he got into some trouble as a teenager, but decided to straighten up his act at 17, when his girlfriend got pregnant. Since he came from a Christian family, he tried reading the Bible, but said he “just decided it couldn’t possibly be the word of God.”
“I started watching debates to find some answers. A lot of debates between Christians and atheists and Christians and Muslims, and the Muslims were always destroying them in these debates,” Driver said, further explaining that he became radicalized because of Western powers killing Muslims in the Middle East.
He said he might be willing to give up his radical views if the West stopped killing, bombing, and arresting Muslims, and if Western nations “take responsibility for the crimes they’ve committed and just stay home and work on their own problems.”
Then he told Canadian authorities he wasn’t a threat, and they believed him.
CBC quotes people who lived near Driver complaining that they weren’t told he was a terrorism suspect. “I think they should have, just so that we’re well aware of this, so that we can keep an eye out ourselves too. We should have the right to know. I’m pretty sure they had close tabs on this guy… but living beside him, I would feel not safe,” said one neighbor.