A young convert to Islam who killed a Canadian soldier in a hit-and-run had been on the radar of federal investigators, who feared he had jihadist ambitions and had seized his passport, authorities said Tuesday.
The suspect was shot dead by police after a chase in the Quebec city of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu. A second soldier suffered minor injuries in Monday’s attack.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the attack “clearly linked to terrorist ideology.” Quebec Police spokesman Guy Lapointe said the act was deliberate and that one of the two soldiers was in uniform. Lapointe said there were no other suspects at this time.
An official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case identified the suspect as Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25.
The suspect was known to authorities and recently had his passport seized, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said. He was one of 90 suspected extremists in the country who intend to join fights abroad or who have returned from overseas. However, it was not known whether the suspect had any ties to Islamic terror groups.
“He was part of our investigative efforts to try and identify those people who might commit a criminal act traveling abroad for terrorist purposes,” Paulson said.
There was no answer at Couture-Rouleau’s single-story white brick home in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, on Tuesday morning, and no sign of police.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the slain soldier, 53-year-old Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, was a 28-year veteran with “distinguished service.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family members, his friends and his colleagues,” the prime minister said.
“This was a despicable act of violence that strikes against not just this soldier and his colleagues but frankly against our very values as a civilized democracy,” Harper said in Parliament.
Lapointe said the other victim is in stable condition with minor injuries.
The suspect sat in his car in the parking lot outside a veterans’ support center for at least two hours before the hit and run, Lapointe said. A police officer on patrol witnessed what happened and immediately gave chase. He was pursued for about 2.5 miles before he lost control of the car, which rolled over several times.
Lapointe said the man was brandishing a knife when he emerged from the vehicle and police opened fire.
The case is similar to one in London last year in which an al-Qaida-inspired terrorist and another man ran over a soldier with a car before murdering the off-duty soldier.
The Islamic State group has urged supporters to carry out attacks against Western countries, including Canada, that are participating in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the terrorists, who have taken over large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. Eight Canadian fighter jets, including two spares, are set to depart for the region Tuesday.