A man who was devoted to the Islamic State was shot and killed by police during a standoff in a small Ontario town last night after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said they received “credible information of a potential terrorist threat.”
CTV News first reported that 24-year-old Aaron Driver was killed inside a home in Strathroy, Ontario, about two and a half hours from Toronto. Driver, who frequently tweeted his adoration for ISIS under the pseudonym Harun Abdurahman, made headlines after he was arrested last summer and subsequently released on a peace bond over fears he would engage in terrorism. He had never been charged with a crime, but the peace bond placed restrictions on his activities and movements, including that he could not use a computer or social media.
The RCMP and local police forces carried out an anti-terror operation in the Strathroy neighborhood following information that linked Driver to a suicide bomb plot, CTV reported. It’s believed that Driver, who lived in Winnipeg since 2012, was living there with his sister.
Local media said that members of the armed forces, police officers with snipers, and RCMP officers in tactical gear swarmed the area.
Driver’s father told the National Post that his son, a recent convert to Islam, had detonated a bomb that injured a taxi driver. He was about to set off another before police shot and killed him.
“Our worst nightmare has come true,” Wayne Driver said. “As sad and shocked as I am, it doesn’t surprise me that it has come to this. Aaron was a good kid who went down a dark path and couldn’t find the light again.”
Wayne Driver added that he understood why police killed his son. “He would not surrender. I’m sure they gave him ample chances.”
On Thursday morning, CBC News reported that the RCMP had warned both the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx about a security threat related to the incident in Strathroy, which is about 140 miles west of Toronto. There was an increased police presence at Union Station—the city’s main transit hub—on Wednesday; however, a spokesperson for the Toronto police said there isn’t anything to suggest that Toronto was a target.
Driver’s case is already starting to raise questions about how effective peace bonds are in terrorism cases. Over the last year, police have increasingly used the tool against people suspected of supporting or participating in terror groups, instead of laying formal charges.
The RCMP has been tight-lipped about the whole thing, only releasing a vague statement on Wednesday saying that “a suspect was identified and the proper course of action has been taken to ensure that there is no danger to the public’s safety.” The RCMP is expected to hold a proper news conference on Thursday.
Driver last spoke to the media outside the Winnipeg courthouse in February after further restrictions were added to his peace bond. “If I fought it, they would have added even more conditions than I’m already under,” Driver told reporters at the time while wearing a black balaclava that covered his mouth.
Earlier last year, Driver, who was born to a Christian family in Saskatchewan, told CBC News in an extended interview that he believed the 2014 terror attack at the parliament buildings in Ottawa was justified. “If a country goes to war with another country or another people or another community, I think they have to be prepared for things like [that] to happen.” he said. “They had it coming for them. They deserved it.”
Driver had a tumultuous childhood and spent much of it moving back-and-forth between different family members and social services. His father was a member of the Canadian military, and his mother died when he was seven years old.
In an interview with CBC News last year, Driver’s father said Aaron started to become more religious around 2011 and 2012 when he fasted for Ramadan and ate halal meat. “When he was living at home, he was very secretive, a lone wolf. He didn’t bring friends over, never talked about where he was going and what he was doing.”
Shortly after that, he said Aaron began espousing more extremist views. In October 2014, CSIS agents contacted his father to warn him about his tweets. “Some things made me want to throw up,” his father said. “People beheaded. He’s commenting on them like it’s some big joke, and he’s applauding their actions. There was a picture of Christian kids being assassinated, and he said they deserved it.”
Canada’s public safety minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement that Canada’s national terror threat level has not changed, and that the “safety and security of Canadians is of the utmost importance to the RCMP and we take all such threats seriously.”