Canadian car attacker was suspected radical

Canadian car attacker was suspected radical
A Surete du Quebec (SQ) officer investigates an overturned vehicle in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec October 20, 2014.

MONTREAL - The young man killed by police Monday after he ran over two Canadian soldiers with his car in a Quebec parking lot was known to authorities as a suspected radical, officials said.

One of the two soldiers is in critical condition in the hospital in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south-east of Montreal, while the other was not as seriously injured, officials have said.

The incident occurred shortly before noon, when a car smashed into the two soldiers in a supermarket parking lot before fleeing with police in pursuit.

A few kilometres away, the driver lost control of his car and flipped into a ditch on the side of the road.

A witness said the driver was holding a knife and headed toward police after he extricated himself from his vehicle.

Police shot multiple times at the suspect, a 25-year-old man, who later died.

Quebec police could not confirm whether the man was armed, and said only that shots had been fired.

"I can confirm that shots were fired," said Guy Lapointe, spokesman for Quebec provincial police, adding that the man was "known to police." The suspect was known to "federal authorities including our Integrated National Security Investigations team in Montreal," who "were concerned that he had become radicalised," federal police said in a statement.

However, the investigation into the incident was ongoing, the statement noted, and federal police were working with law enforcement partners "to ensure all avenues of investigation are pursued." Quebec police said the "terrorist thesis (was) being considered by investigators," but did not provide further details.

They did not specify any links between the suspected attacker and any outlawed groups.

Police searched the man's home and interviewed his contacts Monday night.

Behaviour changes

The incident had drawn political attention when conservative lawmaker Randy Hoback referred to "unconfirmed reports of a possible terror attack" in a question to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons.

"We are aware of these reports, and they are obviously extremely troubling," Harper replied.

"We're closely monitoring the situation and obviously we will make available all the resources of the federal government," he said.

A neighbour of the suspect told a local TV station he had seen changes in the man's behaviour in recent years.

"There was sort of a change in the last year or two," the neighbour said, adding "he had converted to Islam." Canada said this month 80 citizens and immigrants had returned from war zones - including Iraq and Syria - and were suspected of possible links with "terrorism" groups.

"These dangerous individuals have a desire to commit terrorist activity and pose serious threat to law-abiding Canadians," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said at the time.

Last Thursday, Ottawa said it would provide its intelligence agency with new powers to boost national security.

In early October, Canadian lawmakers voted to join the US coalition conducting airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

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