Residents shocked ISIS supporter lived in town; mosque was aware
Published Thursday, August 11, 2016 6:56PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 11, 2016 9:12PM EDT
Residents of an Ontario town where an Islamic State sympathizer died Wednesday say they wish they had known the man was living in their community. The mosque in nearby London, Ont., meanwhile, says they had notified police of his presence and were working with him to try to “change his perspective.”
Islamic State sympathizer Aaron Driver died after detonating a device in a taxicab Wednesday in Strathroy, Ont., where he had been living after signing a terror-related “peace bond” in Winnipeg.
Neighbours said they were unaware of his presence until police descended on the town of 21,000, following a tip from the FBI about an imminent rush-hour attack.
Strathroy resident John Cann said it was “awful scary” especially considering the townspeople “didn’t even know someone is around like that.”
Larry Geddes said residents should have been warned. “It would have been nice if the people would’ve known that something was going on with the young fella’,” he told CTV London.
The London Muslim Mosque, meanwhile, put out a statement saying they had told police he was in the community and kept authorities “apprised of their engagement efforts.”
“The London Muslim community prioritizes the safety of all Canadians and efforts were made to engage Aaron with the hope that the warmth of community involvement and engagement might change his perspective,” the mosque said.
“At all times, the police were updated about these efforts, in addition to their own monitoring,” the mosque’s statement goes on.
“While he had wrong views about the world, at no time did any officials with the Mosque know or suspect that Aaron was translating those views into any kind of attack,” according to the mosque. “He did not display any outward signs of aggression.”
Nawaz Tahir, a spokesperson for the mosque, told CTV News Channel that the mosque approached police about Driver after they noticed his “GPS bracelet.”
He said the community decided to “try to engage him, try to show him the warmth of our community … try to keep him in touch with people who could … teach him about the true meaning of Islam, the peaceful way of Islam.”
But Driver was very quiet and made no friends, Tahir said. He was last seen there a few weeks ago, according to Tahir.
London Mayor Matt Brown said he applauded the mosque “for working with our police partners to keep our community safe.”
Bertina Manders, a neighbour of Driver’s, said she never suspected anything about Driver, who had worked with her husband.
When she heard the apparent gunshots on Wednesday afternoon, she thought the “pop” sounds might have been paintballs, she said.
“It wasn't a huge concern until the people came running out of the walkway and then we just locked everybody up in the house and waited to hear what was going on.”
Manders added that she was surprised such an incident occurred in Strathroy. “It’s more something you’d expect out of Toronto or London, sorry.”
With a report from CTV Kitchener's Leena Latafat in Strathroy, Ont.