STRATHROYÂ – A Canadian man previously banned from associating with Islamic State extremists has been killed as Canada’s RCMP force thwarted what they believed was a suicide bomb plot, a senior police official said.
The suspect allegedly planned to use a bomb to carry out a suicide bombing in a public area, a senior Canadian police official said late Wednesday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak ahead of a Thursday news conference, identified the suspect as Aaron Driver, a man in his mid-20s originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Driver had been under the spotlight for at least a year, as authorities believed he was a threat because he could help terror groups.
The police operation involving Driver took place Wednesday night in the southern Ontario town of Strathroy, 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of Toronto.
Details of how Driver died have not been released. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it halted a possible attack after receiving credible information of a potential terrorist threat.
They said a suspect was identified and the “proper course of action has been taken” to ensure no danger to public safety.
Driver was under a court order from earlier this year to not associate with any terrorist organization, including the Islamic State group. 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.”
Winnipeg-based lawyer Leonard Tailleur, who handled Driver’s peace bond, said he was “shocked” to hear what had happened.
“Saddened to hear that it had to end this way for him,” Tailleur said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Driver was first picked up in Winnipeg in June 2015.
Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University who studies radicalization and terrorism, maintained in 2015 that Driver had posted for several months on social media about disliking Canada and about a desire to move overseas.
Mounties applied for the peace bond, which can impose limits on Driver’s activities, alleging in provincial court documents that investigators believed he might help with terrorist group activities.
When Driver was released later that month, he was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device and banned from going on the internet or having any communication with the Islamic State group, including wearing or carrying anything with an IS logo.
His bail conditions drew criticism from the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties. Later, the government announced that some of his strict bail conditions had been lifted and that he would not be going to trial.
Driver was allowed to remove his monitoring bracelet but continued to be prohibited from using a computer or cellphone – rules that were to be in place until the end of August.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he had spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the police operation Wednesday night “to confirm that public safety has been and continues to be properly protected.”
He said the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other police and security agencies were involved in the operation. He also said the national terrorism threat level for Canada remains at “medium,” where it has stood since the fall of 2014.
After a 2014 shooting rampage by a lone gunman at Parliament in Ottawa, a Canadian police report said the attack that killed a soldier showed that Canada was “ill-prepared” to stop terrorist attacks.
The Ottawa attack came two days after a man, described by authorities as an Islamic State group-inspired terrorist, ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police. That attacker had been under surveillance by Canadian authorities.
By Rob Gillies – Associated Press
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