HALIFAX — Arrests by police that foiled an alleged plot to attack a public place in Halifax have averted a tragedy, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Saturday.
MacKay wouldn’t say what public place was allegedly targeted to be attacked on Saturday, but he said all who are suspected of being involved are either dead or in police custody.
Asked about the motivation for the plan, MacKay said it was not linked to terrorism but he alleged it would have been “devastating” on the city.
“What I can tell you is that this appeared to be a group of murderous misfits that were coming here or were living here and prepared to wreak havoc and mayhem on our community,” he told a news conference.
“Make no mistake about it, there could have been a real tragedy and it would have marked our city and our province for ever.”
Asst. RCMP Commissioner Brian Brennan said Friday night that a man who was found dead in a Halifax area home earlier in the day intended to go to a public place with a woman and open fire on citizens before killing themselves on Valentine’s Day.
Police received information from the public on Thursday morning of a weapons-related threat.
The information suggested a 19-year-old Halifax area man and a 23-year old woman from Geneva, Ill., had access to firearms, said Brennan, the senior Mountie in Nova Scotia.
He also would not say which venue was being targeted, but the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed police official, that the target was a shopping mall.
Brennan said two other male suspects, ages 20 and 17, were also involved, although investigators were still trying to determine what their role was.
MacKay said the site of the alleged attack has been notified and extra security measures have been taken.
“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” he said.
The 19-year-old man and the 23-year-old woman may have been corresponding online, MacKay said.
Brennan said firearms have been seized, although he could not say what kind, how many, or where the weapons were seized.
“The weapons seized had the ability to inflict a lot of casualties if used in a populated area,” he added.
Police say they found the 19-year-old man dead at a home in the Halifax area around 1:20 a.m. Friday.
Brennan would not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his death, saying the issue has been referred to the province’s Serious Incident Response Team, which reviews all serious incidents involving police in the province.
A statement from the Serious Incident Response Team, known as SiRT, said police found the man dead when they entered the residence.
A police official, who spoke anonymously because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press the 19-year-old male shot himself to death after police surrounded his parent’s home. The official said after police were tipped off about the plot they surrounded his home. Police saw his parents leave the house and called the man. As the man told police that he didn’t have any guns and he was on his way out of the house he shot himself, the official said.
Brennan said the 20-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were arrested around 2 a.m. at the Halifax airport. He said the woman was arriving on a plane and the man was there to meet her.
The 17-year-old boy was arrested around 11 a.m. in the Halifax area, he said. Brennan said all three suspects remain in police custody and there was no word on charges.
Brennan also would not characterize the alleged plot as terrorism, saying the views of the individuals “were not based in religion or culture.”
“(These) people were of the same destructive mindset,” he said, but wouldn’t elaborate.