The continued military offensive against ISIS continues in the Middle East, far away from our borders. The United States and its allies continue air strikes in both Iraq and Syria while the Islamic State continues its military campaign of seizing land and supplies. In the last two weeks we’ve seen several lone wolf, small scale attacks in North America from individuals sympathetic to ISIS who were radicalized over the Internet.
On October 20, Martin Couture-Rouleau ran into two Canadian federal investigators in a purposeful act of vehicular homicide. One officer died while the other survived. Later investigations concluded Couture-Rouleau subscribed to radical Islamic ideology and was inspired by ISIS. Two days later on October 22, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau opened fire inside Canada’s Parliament Building, killing a soldier and wounding a security guard in the process. The building was immediately put on lockdown with members of Parliament advised to barricade doorways. Members of Canada’s Conservative Party fashioned spears from flagpoles in the event the shooter targeted the Prime Minister of Canada. Later investigation found that Zehaf-Bibeau had similarly been radicalized to Islamic fundamentalism and shared sympathies with ISIS.
Weeks earlier, Canada joined the coalition to fight ISIS—a fact many are speculating is the reason for the two lone-wolf attacks. The night of the parliament attack, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, “Fellow Canadians, in the days to come we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he many have had. But this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”
The lone wolf model has also been seen in America. On October 23 Zale Thompson attacked four New York City police officers with a hatchet in broad daylight. No officer was killed in the incident, but Thompson was shot and killed. Reporting from the New York Times quickly revealed that Thompson had also been radicalized through the Internet and was an ISIS sympathizer. Later in the week, New York City’s police commissioner William Bratton described the incident by stating, “This was a terrorist attack.”
Many intelligence officials have speculated over the last several months about a possible large scale attack formulated by ISIS. What these incidents seem to suggest is a different story. ISIS continually releases propaganda on the Internet, making the case for their view of an Islamic state. We now see that every once in a while, there will be someone radicalized by such propaganda and willing to perpetrate a lone wolf attack.