For the record, I’m a writer, not a fighter, but I admit to a fascination with terrorism. As a Canadian, I’ve watched terrorist acts unfold across the world with frightening speed and consequences. These usually occur at a distance, allowing Canadians to be mere spectators rather than forced participants. But now, things are happening right in our backyard.
On Monday October 20th, a Quebec man named Martin Rouleau ran down two uniformed Canadian Forces soldiers in a Montreal area parking lot. Rouleau, who had embraced Islam, changing his name to Ahmad LeConverti (Ahmad the Converted), had become radicalized a year ago. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), fearing he might join other western jihadists fighting in support of ISIS, had recently seized his passport to prevent his leaving the country.
After the hit-and-run incident, Rouleau was pursued by provincial police officers in a high-speed car chase until his vehicle left the road and overturned. When he emerged from his car brandishing a knife, he was shot by officers at the scene and later died of his wounds. The incident sent ripples of concerns through CSIS, the RCMP, and Canadian Forces bases throughout Canada, raising security levels and instigating a lockdown at certain facilities.
Today, Wednesday October 22nd, one or more gunmen made an attempt to storm the legislative buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. One uniformed soldier was shot and killed at the National War Memorial. One gunmen was shot and killed by a Sergeant-at-Arms within the Parliament building. Office buildings in downtown Ottawa went into lockdown as local police, RCMP tactical squads and military personnel conduct a search for an unknown number of assailants, whose attack is presumed to have been encouraged by the “lone wolf” action of Martin Rouleau two days earlier.
This isn’t the first time radical Islamists have made their presence known in Canada. In 2006, CSIS arrested a group of jihadists, the Toronto 18, as they took delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate intended for massive bombs in U-Haul trailers. Their targets: the Toronto Stock Exchange, CSIS offices in downtown Toronto, and a military base. After the bombs, they would storm Parliament, seize the Cabinet and behead the Prime Minister, all in time for the evening news and instant fame via al-Jazeera. But the Toronto 18 had been infiltrated and monitored for over a year before security officers swooped in.
In April 2013, hard on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, two men with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested in Canada for plotting to derail a Canadian train traveling from Toronto to New York. Turns out there may have been an Iranian connection, wherein financial or technical aid was provided on behalf of al-Qaeda.
Although these Canadian plots admittedly pale in comparison to 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings, the reality is, Canada is as much on the front lines of the international war on terror as any other coalition nation. And not for lack of warning. For years the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto-based think tank on terrorism, has been warning us that jihadists would necessarily change their program.
Large-scale operations like 9/11 would probably become a thing of the past. Instead, jihadists would adopt that popular line from environmentalists: “Think globally, act locally.” The terrorist equivalent would be a guerrilla war of “lone wolf” or “autonomous teamwork” missions designed to attack infrastructure and terrorize civilian populations and destabilize governments.
I published my novel Al-Quebeca less than a year ago. With every passing month, the central circumstances and events seem all the more inevitable. The plot involves an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Montreal summoned to life by order of a Paris-based mullah. Although Osama bin Laden is long dead and gone, he’d issued a fatwa several years ago, vowing revenge against any country, Canada included, that had sided with America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
(Since then, ISIS has echoed equally violent sentiments, encouraging independent acts of terrorism in every western country that participates in the US-led coalition against their brutal insurrection in Iraq and Syria.)
In Al-Quebeca, the Montreal terrorist plot involves a simultaneous three-pronged strike: to sabotage the Hydro-Quebec electrical grid that supplies power to Boston and New York, behead the visiting Governor of New York and, for body-count bonus points, kill thousands of hockey fans with nerve gas.
Preposterous? Not really. For years the CIA has warned CSIS that Montreal, where almost one in four residents is Muslim or has ties to Arabic-speaking homelands, is a hot-bed of al-Qaeda sleeper cells awaiting the call to jihad. We all think it could never happen here. Until it does.
In Al-Quebeca, the heroine Sophie Gillette is a Montreal homicide detective dispatched in the middle of a snowstorm to investigate the suspicious hit-and-run death of an Iranian engineer who worked for Hydro-Quebec. Defying easy resolution, the case launches her on a collision course with biker wars, arms smuggling and, unexpectedly, a terrorist plot.
In the course of her investigation, Gillette uncovers militant students at Concordia University, drug financiers and a rogue professor with a PhD in chemical toxicology. All are linked to a shadowy figure called al-Quebeca whom Gillette must track to a brutal confrontation.
I just hate to be prescient, but as Aldous Huxley once said, The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense.
But don’t take my word for it. Read Al-Quebeca and judge for yourself.