Canadian soldiers were run down by ‘radicalized’ man, officials say
The man suspected of crashing his car into two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring the other, was being actively investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and had had his passport taken away, officials said Tuesday.
National police in Quebec identified the suspect, who died in a confrontation with police shortly after, as 25-year-old Martin Couture-Rouleau.
The crash, which occurred Monday morning, was a “deliberate act,” according to police officials there, and speculation continued to swirl that the incident might have been a terrorist act.
Couture-Rouleau, driving a light-colored Nissan Altima, ran the soldiers down as they were walking in a parking lot near a military academy in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec police said.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson confirmed to reporters Tuesday that Couture-Rouleau was one of 90 people being investigated in an effort to “identify those people who might commit the criminal act of traveling abroad for terrorist purposes.”
Sgt. Luc Thibault, a spokesman for the RCMP, said Couture-Rouleau was arrested in July at the airport in Montreal as he attempted to leave the country for Turkey.
Investigators believed his attempted travel might be linked to terrorism but didn’t have enough evidence to hold him, Thibault said. He was released shortly after, but officials still had possession of his passport and was in touch with him and his family.
Paulson said officials don’t believe he was working with other people, but they remained “open” and “concerned” about the possibility.
The RCMP is assisting with the investigation.
In a statement released Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the suspect “had become radicalized,” according to national security services.
The Canadian Armed Forces identified the killed soldier late Tuesday as Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53. Vincent, who had served for 28 years, was part of the Joint Personnel Support Unit in Saint-Jean.
Harper offered his “deepest condolences” to Vincent’s family and condemned the “vicious event.”
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that the incident was “clearly linked to terrorist ideology” and called it a “terrible act of violence against our country, our military and against our values.”
Police investigators in Quebec said they had not determined a motive for the attack.
“Right now we believe it was a deliberate act, but in terms of the motivation of the suspect … I want to repeat that there is an ongoing investigation,” said Lt. Guy Lapointe.
The two soldiers were walking through the parking lot about 11 a.m. Monday when Couture-Rouleau hit them with his car and sped off, authorities said.
A provincial policeman saw the incident and began pursuing the suspect, police said. During the short chase, the man lost control of the car and it rolled over.
When Couture-Rouleau emerged, Lapointe said, he was holding a knife and was shot and killed by police.
Vincent was taken to a hospital in Montreal, where he died Monday night. The other soldier, who has not been unidentified, is in stable condition at a hospital and is recovering from minor injuries, military and local police officials said.
Lapointe said the suspect may have been waiting in the car for hours before crashing into the soldiers, at least one of whom was in uniform.
In a statement released Tuesday, National Defense Minister Rob Nicholson expressed “tremendous sorrow” over the attack.
“We are aware that the suspect was known to police and federal authorities, although the circumstances remain under investigation,” Nicholson said. “Our ... members represent the best of Canada, and to have one die in a senseless act such as this only strengthens our resolve.”
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