In the aftermath of a terror attack in Edmonton that saw one police officer stabbed and four pedestrians struck down by a U-Haul truck, experts say that these kinds of individual attacks are a growing trend in the global terrorism landscape.
“We know that there was a recent statement that came out from the leader of ISIS, this is the first time we’ve heard from him in some months, and there were requests or calls for attacks in the West in that statement,” said John McCoy, adjunct political science professor at the University of Alberta.
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“We also know that recently, Al Qaeda in the Acadian Peninsula called for attacks in U-Haul trucks, so there have been some media statements, some propaganda statements coming from these organizations, trying to get their supporters, their followers to carry out these kinds of attacks in this sense, he continued.
Michael Zekulin, adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s department of political science, went on to say, “We’ve seen this in Europe. It’s now arrived in Canada.”
The incident began Saturday night at around 8:15 p.m. M.T., down the street from Commonwealth Stadium where the Edmonton Eskimos were playing. An individual who remains unidentified by police rammed a traffic checkpoint on Stadium Road near 92 Street and struck an officer before colliding with the officer’s police cruiser.
The man — who was driving a white Chevrolet Malibu — jumped out of the car and stabbed the Edmonton Police service member several times with a knife. It’s also confirmed that four pedestrians were struck by the U-Haul during the incident.
“The fact is that this is an all too common pattern we’re seeing in major cities across Europe and unfortunately now it’s arrived in Canada. It’s just simply, at this point what appears to be an individual, inspired by the ideology of ISIS … basically using first a knife and then a car to drive into crowds, to cause carnage, death, destruction and basically create anxiety and terror,” Zekulin told Global News.
The 30-year-old suspect is currently in police custody and police believe he acted alone. Both experts agreed that while law enforcement is taking measures to combat attacks like this one, incidents where an individual inspired by ISIS or terror ideology acts alone to attack civilians are increasingly difficult to prevent.
“The reality is that this is very difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to prevent. Individuals using cars, or individuals using weapons,” said Zekulin.
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“The fact that they are often single actors makes it difficult for them to be identified prior to the commission of an attack. So basically, this is something that we’re trying to sort of get a handle on … and it’s unfortunately become evident that a lot of these are managing to slip through the cracks around the world,” he explained.
Zekulin went on to say that individuals can take precautions while spending time in crowded places by being extra cautious if they’re close to a road, listening for odd noises, and taking note of how the people around them are acting.
On the world stage however, McCoy explains that Canada is beginning to involve itself with counter-terrorism initiatives.
“When it gets down to something like prevention, whether that’s through counter-terrorism or counter-extremism measures, we really have what’s developing in the world right now as quite a multi-faceted strategy. Canada, the federal government, now is engaged in that counter-extremism space and I think that’s ultimately the right way to go to try to prevent these attacks.”