MONTREAL - The suspect in a hit-and-run that injured two Canadian soldiers in Quebec — an incident identified as a possible terror attack — has died in hospital after being shot several times by police.
Lt. Michel Brunet of the Sûreté du Québec says the 25-year-old man, identified as Martin Rouleau, died a few hours after being shot in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal.
The shocking incident, which occurred at about noon Monday, also sent the two Canadian Armed Forces personnel to hospital with one fighting for his life and the other having suffered minor injuries, according to the Quebec provincial police.
The two soldiers were reportedly walking through the parking lot of a shopping centre located less than three kilometres from the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, the French-language university run by the Department of National Defence, when they were run down by a driver.
A police chase ensued and the car drove into a ditch after the driver lost control of the vehicle, police said.
Witnesses who spoke with the TVA network Monday afternoon said they saw a man emerge from the flipped vehicle that was lying in a ditch on the side of the road. The man had his hands in the air and was walking toward police when at least one officer opened fire on the suspect. The witnesses said they heard up to seven gunshots.
TVA also showed images of a knife with an elaborate handle lodged into the ground near where the incident occurred.
A source told the Star that the incident happened near the Integrated Personnel Support Centre on Blvd. du Séminaire Nord. This centre, one of several across the country, is operated jointly by Veterans Affairs and National Defence to assist veterans as well as reservists and regular force troops on issues such as return to work.
In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked by Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback about reports of a possible terror attack.
Harper said: “We are aware of these reports and they are obviously extremely troubling. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We’re closely monitoring the situation and obviously we will make available all of the resources of the federal government.”
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said he was surprised Hoback had described the incident as an act of terrorism so early on.
“I think it’s a mistake to start drawing conclusions on such limited information, especially as to motive, so I was a bit surprised by the interplay between the prime minister and one of his backbenchers when we are still waiting for any information from the police,” Mulcair told reporters.
A police spokesperson confirmed that the two injured pedestrians were members of the military but said it was too early in the investigation to comment on suggestions it may have been a terror attack.
“It’s part of the things we are looking at but it’s very early right now to hypothesize or speculate as to what the intentions were,” the officer told reporters at the scene.
The spokesperson could not say whether the military personnel were wearing their uniforms at the time. Nor could the spokesperson say whether the suspect himself was a member of the military.
Canada’s top general has already warned that military personnel in Canada could be at risk because of Ottawa’s decision to launch combat operations against Islamic State extremists in Iraq.
When the first contingent of military personnel headed to Kuwait from CFB Trenton last week, military officials barred the media from identifying any of the soldiers for fear they could be a target.
“It’s a recognition I think that we want to minimize any risks at all with being posted into this deployment,” Gen. Tom Lawson, chief of defence staff, told a briefing.
The Islamic State “has made it clear they would aspire to present a threat” to the citizens of those nations that have joined the coalition efforts, he said.
“We watch that very closely,” Lawson said.
“There is no indication of direct threats yet but I think we are doing everything we can to ensure that we minimize any threats at all,” he said.
Harper’s Conservative government has deployed up to six CF-18 fighter jets, along with support aircraft, to join the ongoing air campaign against Islamic State targets in Iraq. Those aircraft are exhibited to at their Kuwait base and ready to begin missions by the end of October.
- With a file from Joanna Smith