Aaron Driver, a 23 year-old Canadian who reportedly attempted to perform a suicide attack in the Ontario town of Strathroy before being killed by police officers on August 10, was a highly active member of the pro-Islamic State (IS) social media community.
A report released by IS’ ‘Amaq News Agency the following day identified Driver as a “soldier of the Islamic State.” The message was released shortly after a video surfaced of Driver pledging to IS and threatening Canada: “You will pay for everything you brought us.”
“Though it doesn't appear that Driver coordinated his attack with the Islamic State, he is still yet another indivdual among the thousands of Westerners radicalized on social media,” says SITE Director Rita Katz. “Driver was communicating with Islamic State supporters online and cheering for the group right in broad daylight. Stories like his are frustratingly common.”
Driver used many Twitter accounts under the name “Haroon” and similar aliases, and was followed and promoted by fighters and supporters in the pro-IS community. Among his followers were killed British IS fighter Rahin Aziz (“Abu Abdullah al-Britani”) and May 3, 2015 Texas attacker Elton Simpson.
Just hours before Simpson would claim responsibility on behalf of IS for his attack on a Prophet-drawing contest, he retweeted another user’s shout-out of Driver’s account, and then did so himself:
Driver also celebrated the aforementioned Texas attack. One day after the attack, he tweeted, “Perhaps these filthy kuffar [disbelievers] will learn this time #garlandshooting #texasattack.”
He maintained regular communication with other IS supporters, as shown in an answer on his “6th” Ask.fm account, under the name “Harun AbdulKhaaliq.” In May of 2015, an anonymous user asked Driver about the status of another pro-IS user on Twitter, adding, “I would assume u know because u @ eachother a lot.” Driver replied:
Subahanallah! He asked us to make dua for him because he was in a "a lot of trouble again" and I haven't seen since! his @ is [redacted] still up
The Canadian radical also expressed unveiled support for IS on social media. In another post on the same Ask.fm page, Driver stated, “I support the haqq [truth], whoever is resides with. Just so happens Dawlah is with the haqq.” Likewise, he also condemned those he perceived as “moderates” in Islam when asked about another Twitter user. Driver stated of the user (whose username was redacted from the message):
A young revert who has too many interactions with munafiqin [hypocrites] and 'moderates'. You are who you surround yourself with, and he has become like them. He has developed a loud voice instead of developing his understanding.
Other statements by Driver also indicated a focus on OPSEC concerns. Noting arrests of other IS supporters, he claimed, “I take extreme precautions to keep myself safe.” He also claimed in another answer that he used the Tails operating system, which grants users a computing environment in which all activities, such as instant messaging and web browsing, are anonymous.
“Driver’s attempted attack is the eighth instance of Islamic State-inspired lone wolf activity since mid-June,” says Katz. “Such attacks in this time have spanned the United States, Germany, Belgium, France, and now Canada, and are the direct result of the Islamic State’s aggressive social media campaign to inspire more violence.”