By Allison Lampert
SAINT-JEAN-SUR-RICHELIEU Quebec (Reuters) - The fatal attack on a Canadian soldier by a suspected Islamic militant in Quebec was "clearly linked to terrorist ideology," Canada's public safety minister said on Tuesday.
It was the first fatal attack on Canadian soil involving Islamic militants, and the first incident since Canada joined the battle against Islamic State fighters who have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.
The 25-year-old suspected militant deliberately ran over two soldiers with his car in the Quebec town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on Monday and was shot dead by police shortly afterward.
Police said on Tuesday that one of the soldiers had died.
"What took place yesterday is clearly linked to terrorist ideology," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told reporters in the Quebec town, about 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Montreal.
"I can assure you we take the terrorist threat seriously. This tragedy reminds us painfully that this threat is very real."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said the man driving the car was known to federal authorities, and that there were clear indications he had become "radicalized," a term the government has used to refer to those who support militant Islam.
Canadian security officials have been worried for years about the potential threat of radicalized young men.
Canada is sending six fighter jets to take part in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Canadian media, citing police sources, identified the driver as Martin Couture-Rouleau, a resident of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, and said he had a Facebook page under the name of Ahmad Rouleau. Reuters was unable to verify the identity of the driver.
Blaney declined to give any details of the police investigation into the attack and did not respond when asked about media reports that said Canadian authorities had confiscated Rouleau's passport earlier this year.
A neighbor, speaking on condition that her name not be used, told Reuters that Rouleau became radicalized about a year ago after getting involved with extremist Muslims.
Many of the entries on the Ahmad Rouleau page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Baller.Qc?fref=ts) promote Islam as the true religion and Christianity and atheism as false, but some posts have a political tone.
He posted a quote from an early Muslim caliph, Umar Ibn Khattab: "I will not calm down until I will put one cheek of a tyrant on the ground and the other under my feet, and for the poor and weak I will put my cheek on the ground."
Another post had a symbol handwritten in Arabic, which appears on the flag of the Islamic State militant group, that proclaims that Mohammed is the prophet of Allah.
Television footage outside the house of Rouleau's father showed a police investigator leaving with a bag overnight.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has for years fretted about the dangers posed by home-grown extremists.
Jeff Yaworski, deputy director of operations at the spy agency, said on Monday the agency was worried that Islamic State's "message and successful social media strategy could inspire radicalized individuals to undertake attacks here in Canada".
He told legislators the CSIS was aware of at least 50 Canadians involved with Islamic State and other militant groups in the region.
Ottawa said last week it planned to boost the powers of CSIS by giving it the ability to track and investigate potential terrorists when they traveled abroad.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Oct. 8 it was tracking 90 individuals who either intended to go abroad to join militant groups or had returned to Canada after taking part in terror-related activities.
The RCMP this year set up a series of Integrated National Security Investigations teams to focus on "individuals and entities that are a threat to national security." It said on Monday that Rouleau was known to its team in Montreal but gave no more details.
(With additional reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto and David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer in Ottawa; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Amran Abocar and Peter Galloway)