In a little town not far from my own, Strathroy Ontario, the RCMP tactical response team shot and killed an armed terrorist who was carrying a bomb he intended to detonate in a public area on a suicide mission. He claimed allegiance to ISIS, had made a "martyrdom video" and was planning an attack within 72 hours in an urban center during morning or afternoon rush hour.Now that ISIS has arrived in my own back yard, I have to wonder, how safe are we? What security systems are in place to protect us? We have been far too complacent up to this point. This stuff doesn't happen in Canada.
Aaron Driver, 24, was a known radical. He was under a peace bond for communicating with what the RCMP called well-known ISIS supporters in the U.K. and the U.S. and was being watched and supervised by the Mounties and the FBI. Under the bond his movements and associations were restricted and he was not allowed use of a computer. Well I guess peace bonds don't work too well. What else do we have in place?
At a news conference in Ottawa, Mike Cabana, the RCMP's deputy commissioner for federal policing, said the FBI came into possession of the martyrdom video and tipped off the Mounties about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The video, which the RCMP aired at the news conference, shows a man wearing a balaclava speaking directly to the camera pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and railing against Western "enemies of Islam." The man said he was responding to a call for violence, adding, "we are thirsty for your blood" and praised recent attacks in France and Brussels before promising to act in Canada.
The RCMP said they were able to identify the person in the video as Driver by about 11 a.m. The USA and Canada share information on suspected radicals. We owe you one, FBI.
Police said that around 4:30 p.m., Driver left a residence in Strathroy and got into a cab that he had called. The RCMP's response team surrounded the cab and "engaged with a suspect who then detonated an explosive device in the back of a cab". The cab driver was injured but it is unknown, presently, whether Driver's injuries, although extensive, were the immediate cause of death. The officers fired on the young man and the autopsy results have not yet been released.
Some of the citizens of Strathroy, especially the ones in Driver's immediate neighborhood have expressed anger and concern that they were not warned of a known radical in their midst. That is an area that needs attention. Are we any safer knowing who and where they are? Once their cover is blown, wouldn't they just move to a new area and start over? Wiser heads than mine will have to resolve that question.
"The government of Canada has to get far more proactive on the whole issue of outreach, community engagement, counter-radicalization, determining by how and what means positive constructive influences can be brought to bear to change what otherwise would be dangerous behaviour," said Cabana.
He stressed that law enforcement and intelligence officials are always taking "appropriate steps to keep Canadians safe" and that the national terrorism threat level for Canada remains at "medium," where it has stood since the fall of 2014.
Well, some of us, in the larger towns, are a bit leery about spending time at the big malls, arenas and theaters at the moment. It will all blow over in another week and we will slip back into our complacency and assume all will be well. After all, we have the ever vigilant Mounties watching over us. And stuff like this doesn't happen in Canada.