- Muslim convert, 24, threatened attack in martyrdom video
- Father describes ‘good kid who went down a dark path’
A Canadian man who planned a terror attack in the name of the Islamic State died in a confrontation with police Wednesday, after setting off a bomb that injured a taxi driver.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed the death of Aaron Driver at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, and played a video they say the 24-year-old recorded prior to his death on Aug. 10. In the video, Driver said he was seeking revenge for Canadian military involvement in the campaign against Islamic State militants.
“You will pay for everything you ever brought against us,” a masked man identified by RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana as Driver said in the video, invoking the Islamic State in explaining his plan to attack Canada. Driver also cited recent attacks in Paris and Brussels. “You received many warnings. You were told many times what would become of those who fight the Islamic State.”
Canadian police were alerted Wednesday morning by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that a person planned an attack within 72 hours, and soon identified Driver as their suspect. He planned to detonate a bomb in an unspecified, highly populated area, targeting an urban center during the morning or afternoon rush-hours, police said.
Police confronted Driver at a family home in southwestern Ontario on Wednesday as he left the house and got into a taxi. Driver, who was carrying a bag, detonated a bomb that caused minor injuries to the cab driver, and then “died in his engagement with police,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan told reporters Thursday. She later said Driver may have died of injuries sustained in the blast.
Photographs of the taxi released by the RCMP show small, pellet-like damage throughout the vehicle, concentrated heavily in the back seat.
Police had placed Driver -- a Canadian-born man who had become estranged from his father and converted to Islam -- under certain restrictions last year after being alerted to online postings that voiced support for previous terror attacks.
His father, retired soldier Wayne Driver, has said in media interviews since Wednesday that family efforts to steer his son away from extremism failed. “Our worst nightmare has come true. As sad and shocked as I am, it doesn’t surprise me that it has come to this,” Wayne Driver told the National Post newspaper. “Aaron was a good kid who went down a dark path and couldn’t find the light again.”
The FBI tip and cooperation among Canadian agencies was key to heading off the attack, Cabana said. “Without that level of cooperation, that outcome would have been quite different,” Cabana said. He defended the earlier police monitoring of Driver, who was no longer under active surveillance, saying that when people are determined to carry out an attack “there are no conditions that can be put in place that will prevent them from taking action.”
The police investigation is ongoing, including what type of explosives Driver acquired. “We have no information at this point to indicate Mr. Driver had any other accomplices,” Strachan said.
Canada has had similar home-grown Islamist terror plots. In 2014, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed at Ottawa’s National War Memorial by a gunman who later stormed Parliament and died in a shootout with police. In a video manifesto later made public, he cited Canadian military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as motivation for the attack. Another Canadian soldier, Warrant Office Patrice Vincent, had been run down and killed by a radicalized man in Quebec two days earlier.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau withdrew Canada’s fighter jets from the Islamic State mission while expanding its training role earlier this year. Driver appeared to cite this in his video, saying Canada will still be under attack even though “you ran away from the battlefield.”