TIME Terrorism

U.S. Military Ups Vigilance as Fears Mount of Fresh ISIS-Inspired Attacks

William Mayville
Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., speaks about the operations to target the Khorasan Group in Syria on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, during a news conference at the Pentagon. Cliff Owen—AP

Defense officials are fearful that their personnel may be targeted after receiving public threats from terrorists operating in the Middle East

The American military is warning service members and their families to be a bit more vigilant amid threatens directed from or inspired by ISIS, according to a report on Thursday.

Law enforcement officers and service members were described by the Pentagon, in an internally circulated memo last week, as “legitimate targets” by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, the Military Times reports. The message came days after a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, killing one soldier.

The Marine Corps was also reported to send out an announcement that called on troops to report “even the most minor suspicious activity” and to be prudent when posting updates on social media. And officials at MacDill Air Force Base, overseeing the 6th Air Mobility Wing in Tampa, Fla., were said to have instructed troops to keep a low profile and avoid public affiliation with the military.

According to a dossier compiled for the U.N. Security Council, an estimated 15,000 individuals have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside ISIS and other militant organizations. The large number of fighters receiving training with such groups has raised fresh fears in the U.S. and abroad of domestic attacks should they return home.

[Military Times]

TIME Australia

Australia’s Top ISIS Militant Killed: Sources

Mohammad Ali Baryalei actively recruited for ISIS and was allegedly behind a failed terrorist plot in Sydney earlier this year

Multiple Australian media outlets reported Wednesday that Mohammad Ali Baryalei, one of the country’s most senior figures in the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), is believed to have died fighting for the Sunni extremist group in the Middle East.

Reports of the militant’s death stemmed from a Facebook post on Tuesday by one of Baryalei’s friends living in Syria that claimed the 33-year-old had been “martyred,” according to the Australian.

However, reliable details regarding the circumstances of his apparent death remain scant.

Authorities in Canberra were unable to verify the claim as of Wednesday morning. “I can’t confirm it at this stage,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters at a press conference in the Australian capital, Canberra.

Baryalei, a former Sydney street preacher, was likely the most senior Australian operative fighting in ISIS ranks and is believed to have worked as a top recruiter for the militant organization. He reportedly enlisted as many as half of the 60 Australians estimated to be currently fighting for ISIS, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Authorities also named Baryalei as one of the key masterminds behind a plot to slay non-Muslims at random across Sydney earlier this year, which spurred a massive crackdown by Australian officials in September.

TIME world affairs

Canada’s Homegrown Terrorist Awakening

CANADA-ATTACKS-POLITICS-PARLIAMENT
Soldiers lock the gates at the John Weir Foote V.C. Armouries in Hamilton, Ontario, October 22, 2014 after a soldier believed to be from the base was killed in an attack in Ottawa. GEOFF ROBINS—AFP/Getty Images

Stewart Bell is Senior Reporter at Canada’s National Post newspaper.

Authorities have stepped up efforts against Islamist extremists, which has resulted in a new type of threat: seething anti-Western fanatics trapped in Canada, who decide to strike at home instead

TORONTO—Christianne Boudreau was at her wits’ end when I first spoke to her in June 2013. Her son Damian Clairmont, a bright but emotionally troubled 21-year-old, had left Canada the previous November. A Muslim convert, he had said he wanted to study Arabic in Cairo.

But then a pair of Canadian intelligence officers came to Mrs. Boudreau’s townhouse in Calgary and broke the news: Damian was not in Egypt, he was in Syria. “I had no idea,” she said. “I was totally oblivious to it. You’re in Canada, you think everything’s safe and fine here.”

After a week that saw two members of the Canadian Forces killed in separate terrorist attacks carried out by men who, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, claimed responsibility for their actions in the name of their extremist beliefs, few Canadians are feeling that way anymore.

Canada’s awakening began on the morning of Oct. 20, when Martin Couture-Rouleau, 25, an online supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, waited for two hours at a strip mall near a military training center in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, before running down two soldiers with his Nissan Altima, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53.

Chased by police, Couture-Rouleau called 911 and claimed the attack in the name of Allah before flipping his car into a ditch. He was shot dead as he came at officers with a knife. The RCMP said later he was “known” to them; they had seized his passport in July as he was trying to leave for Turkey, the transit country for foreign fighters on their way to Syria.

In Ottawa two days later, Michael Zehaf Bibeau, 32, opened fire on reservists standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, killing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. He then ran into the nearby Parliament buildings, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was chairing a caucus meeting, before being fatally shot by Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, a former Mountie.

While Zehaf Bibeau’s mother said her son was a mentally unbalanced drug addict, “an unhappy person at odds with the world,” the RCMP said he had left behind a video recording in which, appearing “lucid” and “purposeful,” he said his attack was conducted in the name of Allah and a response to Canadian foreign policy.

If the attacks shocked many Canadians out of their sense of invulnerability, they shouldn’t have. Canadian police and intelligence have disrupted three major terror plots over the past eight years, most recently in April 2013 — all by Islamist extremists who believed Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan was an assault on their faith.

Months before last week’s violence, government officials had been warning that the rise of ISIS had bred a new generation of extremists who wanted to do Canada harm. Shortly before the attacks, the nation’s threat level had been raised and legislation had been drafted to give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service greater powers to track foreign fighters.

About 50 extremists have left Canada for Syria and surrounding countries, according CSIS. Another 90 or so have been identified as “high-risk travellers” who remain in Canada but have become radicalized to the point they want to travel to the region. Together with about 130 active in extremist groups elsewhere in the world and 80 “returnees,” it is a significant number — although not anything like what the United Kingdom and Germany are experiencing.

For some discontented youths, ISIS offers an appealing escape from reality. Spread across the country, Canada’s ISIS followers are young and, thanks largely to the Internet and social media, quick to radicalize. They see Canada as a place of sin and ISIS as their promised land. Many are converts who have little experience with Islamic teachings.

Once they buy into the simplistic ISIS worldview, their self-image seems to transform. They are no longer Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a chubby Somali-Canadian movie theatre popcorn vendor and small-time dope dealer from Calgary. They become, in Shirdon’s case, “Abu Usama,” a fighter who posed for selfies with his AK-47 and recorded videos threatening to terrorize the world.

Damian Clairmont had dropped out of school at age 14 and converted after swallowing a bottle of anti-freeze in a failed suicide attempt. In Syria, according to fellow jihadists, he joined the Al Nusrah Front and when it fractured, he went with ISIS. After meeting his mother, I began to speak with him, first on the phone, then over the Internet.

Over time, he opened up a bit, although only to justify the decisions he had made. He spoke about the afterlife and joked about the weather. “The ski masks here usually aren’t for the cold,” he wrote. He spoke about Canada as a place of evildoers wasting their lives in the pursuit of triviality, living in a delusion of freedom and democracy, too dumb to realize that the only thing was to serve God.

It was clear he had fallen into a very deep hole. He would occasionally contact his mother but she no longer recognized him. He wasn’t her son anymore. After not hearing from him for weeks, I sent him a message asking if he was still alive. He responded that he was “still waiting” for martyrdom. A month later he was killed in Aleppo during a clash between rival rebel factions.

The flow of Canadian youths to Syria prompted the RCMP to step up efforts to stop them. Police seized their passports and worked with their families and communities to talk them down from their fanaticism. But that has resulted in a new type of threat, which Canada experienced last week: seething anti-Western extremists trapped in Canada, who decide to strike at home instead.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on Monday, Michael Peirce, the CSIS Assistant Director Intelligence, said the danger Canada faced was not an ISIS-orchestrated plot but rather “individuals being radicalized and encouraged to action.”

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the ISIS spokesman, no doubt had that in mind when he released an audio recording on Sept. 21 imploring his followers to kill Canadians and their allies. If unable to kill them, he said, spit in their faces. Analysts believe the Quebec attack at least was a response to ISIS propaganda that, according to Mubin Shaikh, a former undercover agent who helped stop terror plots in Toronto and Ottawa in 2006, “has awakened the zombies.” It has also roused something much more powerful: Canadians.

Stewart Bell is Senior Reporter at Canada’s National Post newspaper and the author of three nonfiction books, most recently Bayou of Pigs.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

What the Failure of ISIS to Take Kobani Means

US-led coalition forces hit ISIL targets in Kobani
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani following a U.S.-led air strike on Sunday. Sercan Kucuksahin / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

The Kurdish struggle to hold on to Syrian border town isn't all good news

Coming back after two weeks away, it’s surprising that the Syrian town of Kobani hasn’t fallen to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Pentagon officials were predicting earlier this month that ISIS fighters would overrun the town, near the Turkish border, by mid-October, followed by widespread slaughters among the conquered population.

That hasn’t happened. And while that’s obviously good news in the short term for the city’s 200,000 largely-Kurdish residents, it’s tougher to handicap what it means for the long-term U.S.-led effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.

Earlier this month, U.S. military officers were speaking of ISIS’s “momentum,” and how its string of military successes over the past year meant that quickly halting its advance would likely prove difficult if not impossible. Yet, as far as Kobani is concerned, that seems to be what is taking place.

But that raises the stakes for the U.S. and its allies. Having smothered ISIS’s momentum, an eventual ISIS victory in the battle for Kobani would be a more devastating defeat for the U.S. military than an earlier collapse of the town.

There are concerns that the focus on saving Kobani is giving ISIS free reign elsewhere in its self-declared caliphate—that the U.S., in essence, could end up winning the battle while losing the war.

“The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote Friday. “The U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria.”

Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed frustration that the Obama Administration believes its latest fight against ISIS will yield success when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t. “We understand the definition of insanity: continue to do the same thing and expect something different to happen,” he said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “If we can contain them there, leave them there, I don’t know what else to do. They’re intent on destroying each other, and they’ve been doing it for 1,400 years.”

The chattering classes are likewise not impressed by the fight for Kobani and the overall U.S. strategy against ISIS.

“The town, once dismissed as inconsequential by American commanders, has become not only a focus of the American operation against the Islamic State, known as ISIS, but also a test of the administration’s strategy, which is based on airstrikes on ISIS-controlled areas in Syria and reliance on local ground forces to defeat the militants,” the New York Times said in a Friday editorial. “A setback in Kobani would show the fragility of the American plan and hand the Islamic State an important victory.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post declared Obama’s strategy “unworkable,” and said “the United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated” (the Post‘s advocacy for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq should be kept in mind while listening to such drumbeats).

For its part, the Pentagon is willing to trade 2003’s “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad for a long-term campaign of modest and persistent air strikes that can stall ISIS until better-trained Iraqi forces and yet-to-be-tapped-for-training Syrian rebels can begin reclaiming territory.

The U.S. military is willing to take its time, not that it has much choice, given the situation on the ground and the curbs placed on it by the White House. “Here we are not three months into it and there are critics saying it’s falling apart; it’s failing; the strategy is not sound,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. “The strategy is sound and it’s working and there’s no plans to deviate it from right now.”

The Pentagon has made clear from the start that the battle against ISIS “will be a years-long effort,” Kirby said. “So I think a little bit of patience is required here.” Patience, of course, has never been an American trait. Democracies in general are ill-suited to waging lengthy wars.

But one thing the Pentagon has on its side is the dearth of casualties so far in what some are calling the third Iraq war. A Marine was killed Oct. 1 when he jumped from a V-22 aircraft in the Persian Gulf because he feared the aircraft was going to crash (it didn’t). A second Marine died in Baghdad Oct. 23 in what the Pentagon called a “non-combat-related incident.”

If the U.S. can turn the campaign against ISIS into a sustained, low-casualty operation like the drone wars it has been secretly waging for years in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the public may go along. Whether that will be sufficient to degrade ISIS is, of course, a separate issue.

Read next: 19-Year-Old Marine Is First Soldier to Die Fighting ISIS in Iraq

TIME Foreign Policy

Treasury Department’s Anti-Terrorism Chief Says Cutting Off ISIS Funds Of High Importance

Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen speaks at the CSIS in Washington
Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen speaks at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, June 2, 2014. © Yuri Gripas / Reuters—REUTERS

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said Thursday ISIS is probably the “best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted."

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is the “best-funded” terrorist organization the U.S. has ever confronted, the Treasury Department’s top official for combating terrorist financing said Thursday.

Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Thursday David Cohen, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, outlined a multi-pronged strategy for cutting off ISIS’s access to resources — including as much as $1 million per day in oil sales.

Touching on a topic of heated international debate, Cohen also called on foreign governments to refuse ransom payments to free their kidnapped citizens from terrorist groups.

Because ISIS “poses a different terrorist financing strategy,” than other terror groups, the strategy against it has to look different, Cohen said. Unlike other major terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, which are primarily reliant on wealthy donors, ISIS gets most of its funding not from the illegal market sale of oil, as well as from ransoms and extortion.

Although ISIS conducts most of its business on the black market, Cohen said the Treasury Department can disrupt the group’s finances by identifying and targeting people who operate within the legitimate economy but who also trade illegally with ISIS.

“The middlemen, traders, refiners, transport companies, and anyone else that handles [ISIS]’s oil should know that we are hard at work identifying them, and that we have tools at hand to stop them,” Cohen said during prepared remarks.

The U.S. government is prepared to impose financial sanctions on both ISIS’s leadership and its financial donors. Cohen said Thursday that two individuals were sanctioned in late September, including a military commander and a person who arranged a $2 million donation to the organization. But the effort will take time, Cohen noted, and will require “cooperation and collaboration with partners in the region,” including private sector banks in Iraq and Syria that might be used to store ISIS cash.

He also urged more countries to refuse ransom payments when their citizens are kidnapped. “If we are to protect our citizens and avoid bankrolling our adversary, every country must adopt and implement a no-ransoms policy,” Cohen said. The U.S. does not pay ransoms for kidnapped citizens, even in cases of threatened execution. Some European governments have reportedly paid millions to free hostages from ISIS and al Qaeda.

“[ISIS] has a fair amount of money today, but what’s important is that we do everything we can to make sure it’s not recurring revenue,” Cohen said. He added that, although ISIS generates an estimated $1 million per day from illegal oil sales, even that figure isn’t enough to meet the needs of the people living in the vast territory the group controls. In areas where ISIS now operates, he said, the Iraqi government’s budget surpassed $2 billion this year.

But he counseled patience as the financial prong of the war on ISIS unfolds in tandem with U.S.-led air strikes against the Sunni radical group.

“This is not going to be an exercise where we can at the end of every month produce a balance sheet,” Cohen said. “This is going to be a steady effort to degrade financing over time.”

TIME Canada

The Rise of the Lone Wolf Terrorist

An Ottawa police officer runs with his weapon drawn outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2014.
An Ottawa police officer runs with his weapon drawn outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2014. Sean Kilpatrick—AP

Ottawa shooting appears to be the latest in a series of attacks carried out by individuals with no clear link to terrorist groups

The shooting death of a Canadian soldier outside Parliament in Ottawa, by a suspect named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who was then killed inside the building, appears to be the latest in a series of “lone wolf” attacks inspired by radical Islam.

Wednesday’s attack happened two days after authorities said Martin Rouleau-Couture drove his car into two military members, killing one before he was fatally shot by police, and a month after Alton Nolen beheaded a co-worker in Nebraska. All three appeared to be recent converts to Islam.

There is no official confirmation that any of these attacks are considered to be direct retaliation for the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, described the violent actions of Rouleau as “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”.

The country raised its terror alert from low to medium last Friday not because of a specific threat but in response to an increase in online “general chatter” from extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. A few weeks ago, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, released a video calling for more individual acts of violence against soldiers and civilians in “countries that entered into a coalition” against the group, encouraging ISIS supporters to “kill them wherever you find them.”

However, the roots of the lone wolf phenomenon go back further than this appeal. “It’s obvious that lone wolf terrorism has increased in the past few years, but that was already the case before ISIS came into existence.” says Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in London. “It was adopted as a deliberate strategy by al-Qaeda in the late 2000s” and was repeatedly encouraged by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical preacher based in Yemen, who wrote in the online al-Qaeda magazine Inspire: “It is better to support the prophet by attacking those who slander him than it is to travel to land of Jihad like Iraq or Afghanistan.” Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.

Timeline of Lone Wolf Terrorist Attacks

June 2009: Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad shoots and kills a soldier outside Arkansas recruiting station, claiming retribution for the killing of Muslims by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

November 2009: U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, saying he was driven by a hatred of American military action in the Muslim world.

February 2010: U.S. Pilot Andrew Joseph Stack III deliberately crashes his aircraft into a building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and one other. He posted a suicide note expressing displeasure with the “greed” of the U.S. government.

March 2011: Frankfurt airport shooting of two U.S. Airmen by Arid Uka, a devout Muslim who says he was radicalized by jihadist propaganda videos.

July 2011: Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik kills 77 people in a bomb attack in Oslo and a shooting spree on the island of Utøya to highlight his far-right beliefs.

March 2012: Mohammed Merah kills seven people (including three soldiers) in Toulouse, France. Merah said he was inspired by al-Qaeda.

April 2013: Dzhokar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev kill 3 people, injure more than 260 at the Boston Marathon. Dzhokar said the brothers were motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs.

May 2013: Two British-born converts to Islam, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale attack and kill a British soldier in London.

May 2014: Mehdi Nemmouche opens fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in the center of Brussels, killing 4 people. He is believed to have spent over a year in Syria with radical Islamists.

September 2014: An Oklahoma man with a criminal history, Alton Nolen, beheads a female co-worker after being fired. Authorities said Nolen had recently converted to Islam.

October 2014 : Canadian soldier dies in a hit-and-run in Quebec by Martin Rouleau-Couture. Two days later, another Canadian soldier is shot dead in Ottawa, allegedly by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man with a criminal record. Reports say both terrorists had recently converted to Islam.

ISIS has had a different approach as it wanted to recruit people to fight in Syria and Iraq. “It wasn’t about attacking the West, it was about building the Islamic State,” says Neumann. Now, U.S.-led air strikes mean that “it is yet again this old narrative of the West versus Islam,” he adds. While the group seeks direct confrontation with the West, it’s difficult to attack them in Iraq and Syria, since ground troops are not present. ISIS now thinks “the way to terrorize the West is asymmetrically: to strike out through individuals inside of Western countries and show the public the terrible price that they have to pay for the West’s involvement” in the conflict, Neumann continues.

Jamie Bartlett, head of the Violence and Extremism Program at London-based think tank Demos, believes that “the internet in the last few years has both increased the possibilities and the likelihood of lone-wolf terrorism.” He says it has made it a great deal simpler for one individual to learn about radical ideologies as well as acquire skills like bomb-making, lowering the barrier to participation in a broader, global network of extremism: “Terrorists usually operate within a group, even if only a very small group, but it’s far easier now to be able to go it entirely alone.”

Neumann says that lone wolves are more likely to suffer from social isolation and mental health problems than “normal” terrorists. This can make them harder to detect than groups. “This will undoubtedly be one of the lures of the tactic,” says Matthew Francis, a researcher on radicalization and extremism at Lancaster University in the U.K.

Speaking about the Canadian car killing case earlier this week, Superintendent Martine Fontaine of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said “it’s very difficult to know exactly what an individual is planning to do before a crime is committed. We cannot arrest someone for thinking radical thoughts; it’s not a crime in Canada.” As well as trying to prevent their citizens from joining extremist groups like ISIS abroad, Western governments now also face another dilemma when dealing with the threat of home-grown terrorism. Canadian authorities suspected Rouleau of becoming radicalized and the police seized his passport when he tried to leave for Syria. Zehaf-Bibeau, the suspected killer in Wednesday’s Ottawa attack, intended to travel abroad but was stopped and had his passport confiscated. “Often people’s decisions to fight at home comes from being stopped going to fight elsewhere,” says Francis. Neumann adds that lone-wolf attacks appeal not only to returnees — those who have come back from fighting alongside ISIS — but also “fanboys,” or those who would like to join the ISIS community but who have, for one reason or another, not made it to the battlefield.

Nevertheless, experts agree that most lone wolves are unlikely to kill large numbers of people. “The only lone wolf who killed a lot of people was not a jihadist,” says Neumann. “It was Anders Breivik in 2011 in Norway, who was very sophisticated, a good planner. He acted all on his own and pulled off a massive operation killing 77 people,” he adds. “Typically, lone wolves do one attack, killing one or two people, because they do not have the expertise or sophistication.” Moreover, Bartlett suggests a rise in lone wolf acts can be seen to represent an increased success in counterterrorism operations. As a result of increased intelligence work in stopping larger, plots like 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings, he says, terrorist groups are “limited to conducting attacks that require very little training, very little preparation, very little communication.”

Yet while lone wolves may not pose the same kind of threat as those who organized attacks like 9/11, Neumann says their acts “have a profound effect in terms of the psychological impact on a society, creating tension, polarization and terror in societies.” Since even a very limited act of violence has the capacity to create terror, lone wolf terrorists represent a different challenge altogether for Western authorities from the terrorist cell plotting spectacular attacks.

Read next: The Ottawa Attack ‘Changes Everything’ and Hopefully Nothing at All

TIME Canada

Canadian Police Say Gunman Was Hoping To Go to Syria

A soldier locks the gates as flowers are placed at a memorial outside the gates of the John Weir Foote Armory, the home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in Hamilton, Ontario on Oct. 22, 2014, in memory of Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo.
A soldier locks the gates as flowers are placed at a memorial outside the gates of the John Weir Foote Armory, the home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, on Oct. 22, 2014, in memory of Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo Aaron Lynett—AP

"I think the passport figured prominently in his motives."

The suspected gunman who killed a Canadian soldier in Ottawa and then stormed Parliament before being killed himself Wednesday was waiting for a passport and hoping to travel to Syria, a top police official said Thursday.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson said the lone suspect, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian citizen who is reported to be a convert to Islam, was not previously under surveillance by Canadian authorities, but passport authorities had not yet determined whether to issue him a passport.

“I think the passport figured prominently in his motives,” Paulson said. There was no connection between the attack Thursday and an assault on Monday in Quebec, when a man ran over two soldiers, killing one before the assailant was gunned down by police, according to Paulson.

The slain soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, was shot early Wednesday while on guard at Ottawa’s War Memorial, which stands just steps from Parliament Hill. The gunman then stormed Parliament itself, with shotgun blasts fired just outside the chamber where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was speaking to legislators before being hustled out of the building. A Globe and Mail reporter captured the following violent, but not graphic, footage from inside Parliament:

“We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,” Harper said in a televised address later Wednesday, adding that the incident will lead to a redoubling of Canada’s efforts to fight terrorism. Canada this month said it would send six jets to join the coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS.

President Barack Obama decried the attack on Wednesday as “outrageous,” telling reporters, “Obviously we’re all shaken by it.” Security was tightened at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington in light of the Ottawa shooting, the Associated Press reports.

Members of parliament gathered at the National War Memorial Thursday morning and then convened as scheduled on Thursday.

Read next: The Ottawa Attack ‘Changes Everything’ and Hopefully Nothing at All

TIME conflict

The Death of Klinghoffer and What Actually Happened on the Achille Lauro

Achille Lauro
Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro leaves Port Said harbor on Oct. 10, 1985 after Egyptian authorities stopped it from sailing to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Mike Nelson — AFP/Getty Images

A controversial opera is based on the events of a 1985 terrorist attack

For New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, this week has been one in which the relationship between art and history got a little bit more complicated, as Monday’s opening night of the John Adams opera The Death of Klinghoffer provoked protests. Those opposed to the production, who included former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, believe that the opera glorifies terrorism in the way it presents the story of those who caused the titular death; those who support it say that the opera, though about the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer, does not celebrate the people who killed him. At its heart, the controversy is about the difficult distinctions between expression and endorsement–and perhaps even the very purpose of art.

But it’s also bound to raise a much more easily answered question, at least among younger observers of the debate: who was Leon Klinghoffer and what happened to him? Some hecklers reportedly yelled during the performance that his murder should never be forgotten, and there’s no sign that the opera’s supporters would disagree with that statement.

TIME covered the murder in the Oct. 21, 1985, issue, as a key element in a cover story about terrorism. As the magazine reported, the Achille Lauro was an Italian cruise liner taking about 750 passengers around the Mediterranean; those on board included 11 friends from New York and New Jersey, brought together by Marilyn Klinghoffer, who celebrated her 59th birthday during the trip. Leon Klinghoffer, Marilyn’s husband, was confined to a wheelchair after having had two strokes.

The ship also carried four other passengers, terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front who supposedly planned to attack when the ship reached the city of Ashdod in Israel. But according to an Italian report at the time, after a waiter saw them with their guns they decided to launch their attack early, hijacking the ship and ordering the captain to steer the ship toward Syria. If their demands — for the release of 50 prisoners being held in Israel — were not met, they would begin to kill their hostages.

Leon Klinghoffer, tragically, was first. Here’s how TIME reported what happened:

At exactly what point these sadistic threats became reality is not known. But in a now familiar ritual of terrorism, the hijackers had decided to underscore their seriousness by taking a sacrifice. First they separated Leon Klinghoffer from his wife. “No,” said one gunman to the wheelchair-bound passenger. “You stay. She goes.” Marilyn Klinghoffer never saw her husband again. For the next 24 hours she and her friends were consumed by anxiety. When the hijacking was finally over, they looked all through the ship for him, though they expected the worst. Some passengers had noted that the trousers and shoes of one of the hijackers had been covered with blood. And besides, as one recalled, “We had heard gunshots and a splash.” Giovanni Migliuolo, the Italian Ambassador to Egypt, later chillingly reconstructed the event: “The hijackers pushed [Klinghoffer] in his chair and dragged him to the side of the ship, where, in cold blood, they fired a shot to the forehead. Then they dumped the body into the sea, together with the wheelchair.”

After it became clear that no nation would allow the hijacked ship to dock and the PLF negotiated for the hijackers to leave the ship, the Klinghoffers’ children were told that all of the passengers were safe. Hours passed before the State Department informed them that their father had not been found. About two days passed before the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt announced that Leon Klinghoffer had been murdered.

Marilyn Klinghoffer — who reportedly told President Reagan that she spat in the terrorists’ faces when asked to identify them in a line-up, to which he responded “You did? God bless you.” — died of cancer the following year. The opera The Death of Klinghoffer premiered a few years later, in 1991, in Belgium. Though it was controversial then as well, TIME’s critic Michael Walsh wrote that fears over the subject matter should not keep it from the ranks of operatic greatness. “Just as the lyrical and deeply humanistic [Nixon in China, an opera by the same creative team] confounded many who had expected a leftist demonization of the old unindicted co-conspirator,” he wrote, “so has this sweet, sorrowful Klinghoffer upended everyone’s expectations.”

Read the full story of the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, here in TIME’s archives: The Voyage of the Achille Lauro

Read TIME’s review of the premiere performance of The Death of Klinghoffer, here in the archives: Art and Terror in the Same Boat

TIME 2014 Election

Voters Say Events in U.S. ‘Out of Control’

Poll finds anxiety on a range of issues, from Ebola to health care costs

Call it the Freakout Election.

Two-thirds of likely voters in the most competitive states and congressional districts in the midterm election fight think events in the U.S. are “out of control,” according to a new poll. The survey by Politico found widespread anxiety about the Ebola outbreak, terrorism, health care costs and President Barack Obama’s leadership. Only 36% think the U.S. is “in a good position to meet its economic and national security” challenges.

The poll underscores how both Obama’s low approval ratings and a general sense of disarray are weighing down Democrats just weeks before voters go to the polls to decide which party will control the Senate. A majority of voters, 54%, either strongly disapprove or somewhat disapprove of Obama’s job performance.

Read more at Politico

TIME Nigeria

Why the Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Still Aren’t Home

Experts say the plight of the girls are "symbolic" of the larger problems in Nigeria's fight against the militant group

A lot has happened since April 14th. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine; the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) seized vast swathes of Iraq; and Ebola has killed thousands in Africa, and spread to at least two other continents. In our hyper-speedy news cycle, six months passes in a blink of an eye. But for the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants when they struck the northeastern Nigerian village of Chibok in April, it probably feels like a lifetime. The militants abducted 276 girls; six months on, more than 200 remain in captivity.

Why haven’t they been rescued yet? Largely, observers say, because of Nigeria’s failure to effectively counter Boko Haram, which has claimed thousands of lives over the years in its violent campaign to carve out a hardline religious state in the north of the country. “The problem is that the girls are symbolic,” says Adotei Akwei, managing director for advocacy for Amnesty International USA. “They’re part of a larger human rights catastrophe, a bad situation in Nigeria.”

“Nigeria’s military strategy isn’t working well,” he continues. “We clearly have not been able to get the girls back, or to change the mindset or approach of the Nigerian government in terms of how it responds to Boko Haram or how it protects its citizens”

Carl LeVan, a professor at American University in Washington D.C. who writes about Nigeria, adds that many civilians consider the Nigerian military almost as bad as Boko Haram when it comes to human rights violations, even as the rebels continue their reign of terror in the north.

Akwei says the problems with the Nigerian military also hinder international efforts to lend a hand. “The Nigerian military has got such a bad reputation that even the US military is concerned about how much they can cooperate because of the kind of abuses we’ve documented,” he explains. “There’s no transparency, no accountability whatsoever.”

The military has an embarrassing track record when it comes to fighting the militant group. Earlier this year, they claimed to have rescued the girls the day after the abduction, but then had to retract that claim. In late May, they released a statement saying they knew where the girls were being held, but wouldn’t use force to rescue them. And in a tragic incident early last month, several Nigerian troops were killed by their own airstrikes aimed at Boko Haram.

U.S. planes spotted large groups of girls in early August that might have been the kidnapped students. Time, however, continues to drag on without a rescue—and, says Jennifer Cook, the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the longer they stay in captivity, the harder it becomes to bring back the missing girls.

“With hostage situations with this many people, to bring one set back without endangering another set is very difficult,” says Cooke. “In some cases, there’s a pretty good idea of where they are, but extricating them from a group of armed criminals who have so little respect for life is a difficult negotiation process. And the longer they’re there, the greater likelihood they become dispersed, and the more difficult they are to track down.”

According to Cooke, the big-picture strategy for fighting the insurgency would involve capturing key Boko Haram leaders and cutting off funding sources to weaken the militant group. But it’s also important for the government to win the support of communities in that part of the country, where many feel both abandoned by the administration and terrorized by Boko Haram.

“A lot of civilians are feeling pinched between the terror of Boko Haram and the misbehaviors of the Nigerian military,” says LeVan, whose book on Nigeria, Dictators and Democracy in African Development, is set to be released later this month. “They said ‘we’re trapped, we’re fleeing Boko Haram but we also don’t have anywhere to go because our military is suspicious of us.'”

Winning the hearts of northern Nigerians is crucial to stopping the violence and finding the girls, but some communities are reluctant to support the government for fear of violent reprisals from Boko Haram, and because they don’t trust the government to protect them. Cooke says that “fundamental distrust” in the north is one of the government’s biggest impediments to finding the girls, because it makes it much more difficult to get accurate information. In the meantime, the girls are no better off. “These girls are being held under absolutely horrific circumstances, subjected to sexual violence and rape, forced into servitude,” she said. “There are reports that some have become pregnant.”

If those reports are true—and there’s a good chance they are, based on Boko Haram’s history of impregnating abducted women—the pregnant girls could face even greater challenges down the road. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe runs the Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center in Uganda, where she helps girls who have been victims of sexual violence rebuild their lives with their children, who are often outcasts in their communities. “Because the situation they are taken in, I would not be surprised if a good number of them are pregnant,” she says. “Raising the child of a person who has been maltreating you is always [hard.] That is why there is violence and anger returned on these children. Because they give [the mother] that reminder of the pain they have gone through.”

Sister Rosemary says that if the girls are ever released, they may have trouble re-joining their families and communities. That’s why continuing their education will be crucial for helping them move forward.

“If we leave these kids and say, they cannot catch up, I think we just are going to destroy them more.”

But before anybody can worry about education and rehabilitation, the girls have to come home. “Our world must not forget these adolescent girls,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women and a United Nations Under-Secretary-General. “The world must come together and make every possible effort to rescue these girls and bring their captors to justice. We cannot and must not move on with this humanitarian tragedy still unresolved.”

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