A suspected ISIS sympathizer believed to be the lone suspect in a suicide bomb plot on a major Canadian city was killed Wednesday during a dramatic police takedown in a southern Ontario town, CTV News has learned.
Aaron Driver, 23, was killed inside a home in Strathroy, Ont., a community about 225 kilometres west of Toronto. He was well known to Canadian intelligence and police officials for his support for the Islamist terrorist group.
Police believe Driver was acting alone in the alleged plot, and there is no threat to public safety. But officials were swarming the Strathroy house until late Wednesday night, concerned about what may have been inside.
Neighbours reported hearing a loud explosion and gunshots during the police operation, which included swat teams, a bomb squad, the RCMP and Canada’s military special operations forces.
According to an internal government memo obtained by CTV News, the suspect allegedly planned to use an IED to carry out a suicide bombing mission in a public area. His alleged plan, according to the document, was to create mass casualties.
Officials feared that the plot could’ve been carried out on Wednesday during rush hour in a busy location.
The RCMP has not said what city was allegedly targeted. Security officials say there is no longer a threat to national security.
Driver was well known to police and intelligence officials. He was known for tweeting his support of ISIS, and he applauded the 2014 attack on Parliament Hill and encouraged ISIS to target Canadian military and police.
However, there is no evidence whether he was directed by the group in Wednesday’s foiled plot.
Driver was previously arrested but never formally charged for his actions. He was released on a peace bond and banned from using a computer, a cellphone or associating with terrorist sympathizers.
The RCMP released a statement saying it received “credible information of a potential terrorist threat” earlier in the day.
“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 statement said.
“The safety and security of Canadians is of the utmost importance to the RCMP and we take all such threats seriously. As this is still an unfolding matter and that the investigation is still underway, we are not able to provide further comment at this time.”
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale said in a statement that he spoke with the prime minister to confirm that public safety “continues to be properly protected.”
“There is no greater responsibility of the Government than to keep its citizens safe. Earlier today, the RCMP received credible information regarding a potential terrorist threat and took action to ensure public safety” Goodale said.
Goodale pointed out that Canada’s national terrorism threat level remains at “medium,” where it has been since the fall of 2014.
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson