Images of Martin Rouleau AKA Ahmad the Converted, via Facebook.
Even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper is remaining tight lipped about the specifics of a “suspected terror attack” yesterday in Montreal, online Canadian jihadists currently plying their trade in Iraq and Syria are already making a martyr out of the suspected attacker.
Martin Rouleau—who went by the alias Ahmad LeConverti (Ahmad the Converted)—allegedly ran over two Canadian soldiers in a civilian location near a base south of Montreal, before being chased and subsequently shot dead by police. The incident has since claimed the life of one of the soldiers, after he died from his injuries in hospital, leaving the other in critical condition.
While the PMO clearly stated that Rouleau had “become radicalized,” as of yet the RCMP has not released any details concretely linking Rouleau with operatives in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The RCMP did, however, confirm he was one of 90 Canadians being monitored for potential terrorist activities in Canada.
Real IS links or not, it didn’t stop alleged fighters with Canadian roots from tweeting congratulatory statements for the now-dead Quebecker.
Abu Kalid Al-Kanadi is a suspected Canadian jihadist in Syria widely known by his online alias. Last week, the potential Torontonian posted messages inciting attacks against Canadians after Prime Minister Harper formally decided to increase military engagements in Iraq.
“(M)y message is clear. Canada initiated attacks on the Islamic State, so Muslims in Canada, retaliate & KILL THEM WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM,” he said in a tweet.
It’s clear the planned CF-18 bombing campaigns against Islamic State targets didn’t sit well with fighters on the ground, who, like al-Kanadi, now use as a justification for terror attacks on Canadian soil.
“Canada sends jets and troops to the Muslim lands, and kill our people. Do you not expect Muslims to retaliate?” he said in his latest tweet storm.
Another fighter who identifies himself as Muthanna al-Kanadi, suspected to be Ahmed Waseem of Windsor, similarly justified Rouleau’s alleged attacks, citing the newest Canadian war in Iraq as reason alone to expect retaliation.
Although unverified, it appears ‘Ahmad’ had his own Twitter account possibly in preparation for a reported move to Syria to join IS. The account, with few followers and the image of the Islamic State flag for a profile picture, wasn’t very active.
In late September a senior leader in IS urged Muslims abroad to kill ‘disbelievers’ in the West. “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian,” said Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.”
For the record, it’s believed Rouleau mowed down the two Canadian soldiers with his car, before a high speed chase ended with unconfirmed reports of him charging a policewoman with a knife and before getting shot by police.
The brazen daylight attack has all the makings of a lone wolf operation that intelligence agencies, among them CSIS, have warned about for years. In fact, declassified Canadian intelligence documents show CSIS was already concerned about “bladed weapon attacks against military personnel.”
And you don’t have to look far for parallels. The attack in Woolwich, England—where a lone radical drove down a British soldier and attempted to decapitate him—serves as a prime example of the difficulties in policing “small scale” operators. Or in other words, the type of potential sympathizers who identify with IS ideologies, but have been radicalized outside professional jihadist networks—and thus, likely avoided the detection of signals intelligence agencies.
When the social media famous Canadian jihadist, Abu Usamah, told me that Canada was now a terror target for the Islamic State, former CSIS spy Michel Juneau-Katsuya explained that those threats should be taken seriously.
“We cannot joke with [threats], or put our heads in the sand and say ‘it’s not going to happen here, we’re the good guys,’” Juneau-Katsuya said. “Because we’re not identified as the good guys anymore. We’re identified as part of the coalition. Our Prime Minister has been quite vocal… We must assume there’s a threat.”
At the time, planned attacks by IS linked militants in western nations were already evident, with the former CSIS agent certain Canada would become a target militants, both professional and non-professional.
“We don’t necessarily have any open information that they currently have sleeping agents in Canada,” Katsuya said at the time. “That said, we know they have been capable of recruiting. So if they’re capable of recruiting people who have left the country to fight with them, we might assume they’re capable of telling new recruits to ‘stay put, we’re going to tell you what to do in Canada.’”
One security expert that I spoke with in the immediate aftermath of the Rouleau attacks told me the real danger now is how a successful lone-wolf affects the thinking of other, similar actors. Does it provide the prototype for a true-blue jihadist? Or is this simply the work of a troubled twentysomething?
Only time will tell and the new details from the RCMP investigation into Rouleau that will emerge. For now, online IS fighters don’t seem to care what Rouleau’s legacy at home will be, because he’s already their brand new Canadian martyr.