OTTAWA — Extremists are increasingly carrying out simple but deadly attacks using knives and vehicles, Public Safety Canada warns in its latest assessment of the terrorist threat.
Such unsophisticated but “high−impact” assaults took place recently in Edmonton, where five people were injured, and in New York, killing eight people and injuring several more, the annual report released Thursday notes.
“These kinds of potential weapons are easy to obtain and it is therefore difficult to prevent their use in attacks.”
In addition, it notes that Daesh and al−Qaida propaganda has provided guidance to supporters on the use of small arms, vehicles and bladed weapons, offering suggestions on how to inflict the most harm.
“Such encouragement to use simple weapons empowers those who would otherwise be incapable of conducting a more complex terrorist attack.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says in a preface to the report that recent events around the world serve as a reminder that any type of radical ideology, including right−wing extremism, can fuel terrorism.
Canadians have become all too familiar with the tragic consequences of extremism, from the shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that took six lives and injured many more, to the attack in Burkina Faso in which six Canadians were killed, Goodale says.
The principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from extremists inspired by violent Islamist ideology and by terrorist groups such as Daesh and al−Qaida to carry out an attack in Canada, the report says.
Some individuals in Canada who are attracted to such ideologies participate in online forums, the circulation of extremist propaganda, terrorist financing and travelling to join terrorist groups abroad.
Just over 190 extremists with a nexus to Canada are overseas and suspected of engaging in terrorist activity, the report says. In addition, the government is aware of about 60 who have returned to Canada.
These numbers have remained relatively stable over the last two years, as it has become more difficult for extremists to successfully leave or return to Canada, the government says.
Slightly more than half of the Canadian−linked extremists abroad are in Turkey, Syria or Iraq. Only “a relatively small number of returnees” are from that region but the majority of those who have returned from one of the three countries are suspected to have taken part in combat, the report adds.
The report says right−wing extremism is driven by “hatred and fear and comprises a complex range of individuals, groups and online communities” espousing a number of issues and perceived grievances.
“In Canada, individuals who hold extreme right−wing views are predominantly active online, leveraging chat forums and online networks,” the report says. “Rather than openly promoting outright violence, those holding extreme right−wing views often attempt to create an online culture of fear, hatred and mistrust by exploiting real or imagined concerns when addressing an online audience.”
The report also says that terrorists intend to develop cyberattack capabilities, but to date have shown little ability to launch damaging operations. Actually possessing such abilities would allow them to successfully disrupt essential services and critical infrastructure such as the electrical grid, water and food supplies, and transportation.
The government says it is addressing the terrorist threat through security, intelligence and law−enforcement work, international co−operation, counter−radicalization efforts and the introduction of new security legislation that flowed from Liberal campaign commitments and national consultations.
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Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press