The violent arrest in Ottawa of a man who was the target of a national security investigation came a day after he allegedly caused a furor in an Ottawa mosque by publicly praising Parliament Hill shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as a hero, sources told CBC News.
Luqmann Abdunnur, 39, was arrested last Saturday after a traffic stop and charged with assaulting police, obstructing police, resisting arrest and driving with a suspended licence.
Abdunnur was "recently" put under surveillance by one of the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, sources told CBC News.
A day earlier — and two days after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial — the imam at Assunnah Mosque in Ottawa used his Friday sermon to condemn the attack. Witnesses say Abdunnur, the son of American converts to Islam, heckled the imam, calling the gunman a "hero" and a "martyr."
He was asked to leave and the mosque called police. Assunnah is one of two mosques that contacted police to report Abdunnur as a dangerous extremist, sources close to the mosques told CBC.
Worshippers at the Assunnah Mosque came to prayers a week later on Oct. 31 to find that their unfinished mosque had been vandalized. It's not clear why the vandalism occurred, but officials at the mosque say they don't believe it was because of their co-operation with authorities.
"It will cost money, of course," said mosque vice-president Jalil Marhnouj. "But it’s more the symbolism than anything. It’s just sad for people to see that when they come to the mosque."
'He's not a security risk,' estranged wife says
Abdunnur is described by sources in the community as having three or four common-law wives and about a dozen children. He owns a moving company.
One estranged wife, convert Erica Marx, spoke to CBC through a crack in the door at her Ottawa townhouse.
"He's not a security risk," she said. "It's clear that he was set up. Now the RCMP are saying he's part of a greater investigation, but they haven’t linked him to anyone overseas or here who’s a security risk. He's not tied in with any of that."
Marx also criticized administrators at the Assalaam Mosque in Ottawa’s east end, and the Assunnah Mosque in the city’s south end, for reporting Abdunnur to authorities.
"It's embarrassing as a Muslim in Ottawa that we don't have administrations that feel they can deal with those types of things on their own without having to call in the police."
Mosque alleges imam attacked
Abdulhakim Moalimishak, president of the Assalaam Mosque Association, said Abdunnur violently interrupted Friday prayers two months ago, when the mosque’s imam condemned extremism from the pulpit.
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"He stood up and basically tried to assault our imam, and said the terror groups that are operating in Somalia and the Middle East are heroes, and he would not in any way allow our centre to oppose that radical thought."
Other worshippers had to physically restrain Abdunnur, and he was barred from the mosque, according to Moalimishak. Mosque officials contacted Ottawa police, who for the next four weeks stationed officers at the mosque during Friday prayers. When Abdunnur returned, they turned him away.
Abdunnur then began to attend the Assunnah Mosque, currently in the last stages of construction.
A violent takedown on a busy avenue
On Saturday, Abdunnur, who owed over $70,000 in provincial fines, was travelling in his black Nissan sedan on Bank Street, a four-lane avenue in the city’s south end, when Ottawa police pulled him over.
CBC has learned that he was also being tailed by officers from the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, including both RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police officers.
Ottawa police and a civilian eyewitness said Abdunnur refused to comply with police orders, and instead began chanting, then suddenly punched an officer in the face and ran into traffic.
A plainclothes OPP officer from the surveillance team fired a shot at Abdunnur, but missed. Ottawa police said one of their officers also missed him with a stun gun before a second officer fired his stun gun and connected.
Abdunnur remains in custody.
'Not an isolated incident'
Assalaam Mosque Association president Abdulhakim Moalimishak said mainstream mosques are increasingly being challenged by extremists.
“I would not say this is an isolated incident. I would say there are groups out there that are trying to have a foothold in Islamic centres."
Moalimishak said extremists are taking advantage of the open-doors tradition of mosques and that mosques need help from the wider society to counter that threat.
"We came from war zones, we came from conflicts that we do not want to replicate in this great country of ours.… We do not want these places to be places of politics, of foreign agendas, and of groups who have no interest in co-existence."