On July 1, RCMP arrested Surrey residents John Stuart Nuttall and Amanda Korody in connection with an attempted terrorist attack in which they hoped to set off pressure-cooker style bombs at the Legislature during Canada Day activities.

Although Nuttall and Korody have not released statements and any motives are unknown, they have been charged on three counts; placing explosive, facilitating a terrorist activity, and possessing an explosive substance with the intent to endanger lives.

The police believe that Nutall and Korody were “self-radicalized.” UVic Political Science professor Dr. Scott Watson agrees. “They were already in some ways ostracized from society,” says Watson, “involved in various criminal and other anti-social activities prior to this. So this may just be a case of, they found another ideology that would justify violence and therefore use it in that way. Rather than true converts to a cause with a explicit political goal.”

Watson says there is no pattern of people that self-radicalize — it crosses all levels of society. However, “The connection to al-Qaida, although it’s drawn and alluded to by the police, I think is a fairly weak connection, if any connection at all,” Watson says. “I’m not sure how much that actually illuminates what’s going on here. In fact, I think it may even detract from understanding what’s going on in this particular case. It’s not to dispute these people have read or been influenced by al-Qaida, but there’s no network here that’s operating.”

Not only is there little to no evidence so far that Nuttall and Korody have links to al-Qaida, UVic professor of Islamic history Andrew Rippin says, “The reports that indicate that the pair were shunned from the local mosque in Surrey suggest that there is an awareness of the problems that these two brought with them that were not welcome within the Muslim community.”

Rippin says that a substantial number of those who convert to Islam do not do so to carry out violent acts. “I believe it does make sense to think about these two individuals as special cases of alienated people finding meaning for themselves through involving themselves in something dramatic (“exciting” it might be said), says Rippin of Nuttall and Korody. “And what would be more obvious these days than an association with Islam — given the attention that elements such as al-Qaida attract?”

While al-Qaida involvement is seen as unlikely, the role of the police and intelligence agencies in monitoring Nuttall and Korody has been questioned. Watson himself wonders how those agencies came to identify the two suspects in the first place, and what role those agencies then played throughout the process in terms of providing material or encouraging them. “I’d like to see more come out on that in particular.”

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