Al-Qaeda’s new focus on “lone wolf” tactics is making it tough for Western intelligence agencies to prevent terror attacks, Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Richard Fadden said on Monday.
In a rare admission that al--Qaeda’s switch to “individual jihad” was posing problems, the head of Canada’s spy service said lone wolves are tough to detect because they do not belong to a larger network that might attract attention.
“When you have an individual who does not talk to anyone, you either need good luck — which happens sometimes — or for them to make a little mistake here and there,” Fadden told the Canadian Senate’s anti-terrorism committee.
He added that al-Qaeda had decided to use solo campaigns because it was too difficult to launch major operations such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US.
Canada, along with spy agencies in the US, France, Germany and Australia, is trying to develop a greater understanding of what motivates solo attackers.
“It is not easy ... because these individuals seem to be a mix of terrorists and people who simply have very big personal problems. So it becomes very difficult to try to develop a doctrine, a series of operational capabilities, to deal with them. So to be honest, yes, it worries us,” the top spy said.
One example of a lone wolf was Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people in France last month, Fadden said.
Merah, who died in a gunfight with police, said he had been inspired by al-Qaeda.
Predicting that the number of solo attacks would increase, Fadden said one of the main driving forces behind the new campaign was Inspire magazine, which bills itself as the publication of a -Yemeni-based group called “al--Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The magazine — which once published an article titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” — gave precise instructions on how to inflict the most damage, he said.
“I must say that my colleagues in Britain, in Australia and the US think the same thing — we are already seeing an increase in the number of people who are acting as individuals and that really makes our lives complicated,” Fadden said.
He later said one way to pick up lone wolves before they attacked was to pay very close attention to the Internet.
“Most of them in one shape way or other usually communicate on the Internet, they are trying to find out something, they are trying to connect in a non-operational way with other individuals who might share their views,” he told reporters.
“In our experience and the -experience of other countries, that is the main way you can try and get a sense that somebody is going down the road to do something that is unacceptable legally, so we need to monitor that to some degree,” Fadden added.