Friday, October 24, 2014

24-Oct-14: Attacks on security personnel and what we do and don't know

Canadian parliament building under attack on Wednesday [Image Source]
From The Economist ["Terror in Canada", October 25, 2014]
It was a sombre Stephen Harper who addressed Canadians on October 22nd. A lone gunman had fatally shot a young soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in the capital, Ottawa, and then entered Canada’s parliament building where he was killed. The prime minister linked the shooting to the murder earlier in the week of another Canadian soldier. Both, he said, were a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the type of terrorist attacks seen around the world. His government would redouble its efforts to work with its allies in fighting terrorist organisations abroad, the Conservative prime minister vowed. It would also “take all the necessary steps” to identify and counter threats at home...
Two things gave this week’s strike added impact. It badly frightened MPs, most of whom had gathered for weekly caucus meetings in rooms on either side of the corridor where the gunman exchanged fire with security officers. They used furniture to construct makeshift barricades and had to remain shut away for hours. Second, it took place amid a heated debate over the Conservative government’s decision to increase anti-terrorist powers at home and to join the military campaign led by the United States against Islamic State in Iraq.
Mr Harper chose to interpret the shooting as part of a broader bid by terrorist groups to bring “their savagery to our shores”... It was unclear... whether the gunman, a Canadian named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had links to any terrorist group, but he was described by a person who met him at a mosque in British Columbia as having a “disturbing” side, suggesting mental-health problems. Nor was there any sign of a link to Martin Couture-Rouleau, shot dead by police on October 20th after he struck two soldiers with his car, killing one, near a military academy in Quebec. Mr Couture-Rouleau was under sporadic surveillance and his passport had been seized because he was one of an estimated 130 Canadians whom the security services suspected of terrorist leanings.
Making sense of what Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, the two men named here as the attackers (or the alleged attackers), sought to do or what motivated them is on the minds of many.

Reuters (without saying much about its sources) said yesterday that
some U.S. government sources said the shooter was born Michael Joseph Hall but changed his name to Zehaf-Bibeau. Two U.S. officials said that U.S. agencies have been advised that the shooter was a Canadian convert to Islam. 
CNN describes Zehaf-Bibeau as the son of a Libyan father and and a mother who is Canadian and the deputy chairwoman of the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. She has been a refugee protection officer, legal adviser and manager of operational support, among other roles. It is her very moving words of apology that we quoted here yesterday. Her son, according to CNN, had a criminal record "related to drugs, violence and other criminal activities".

Canada's National Post ["‘He seemed like a typical and fairly boring convert': Inside Martin Rouleau’s rapid descent to extremism"] says that country's police, the RCMP
had been working with Martin Rouleau to help him overcome his extremist thinking and met with him just 11 days before he allegedly ran down two Canadian Forces members with his car in an apparent act of terrorism. At a news conference in Montreal, the Mounties outlined their four months of dealings with the 25-year-old radicalized Muslim convert, who came to RCMP attention in June when he began posting messages on Facebook suggesting he wanted to fight in Syria... The RCMP seized his passport, but there was not enough evidence to charge him and he was released... [National Post, October 21, 2014]
What is concrete among the various matters in doubt at at this point is that
  • two uniformed Canadian security men are dead, and
  • as we noted here two weeks ago ["13-Oct-14: Knowing there are people among us who exult in acts of terror, how concerned should we be now?"], there are well-publicized Islamist voices in the air right now calling for believers to "strike their police, security, and intelligence members... Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. If you can kill a disbelieving American... 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, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling.
The weapon used in yesterday's
New York hatchet attack
We are aware of the news reports from New York City this morning about a non-verbal axe-wielding man who tried to kill several policemen yesterday, Is there a connection? Too soon to know. [UPDATE Saturday night October 25, 2014: But there are some clear indications - see this post.]

But it's worth asking whether the coyness of the mainstream media about the current threats and their source is more conducive to people's safety or less.

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