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Firebombing consistent with extremist attacks

They may have been shadowy figures in black masks, but the vandals who firebombed an Ottawa bank branch seem familiar to terrorism experts.

They may have been shadowy figures in black masks, but the vandals who firebombed an Ottawa bank branch seem familiar to terrorism experts.

The target and tactics are synonymous with fringe extremists angry about corporatization, environmental destruction and treatment of aboriginals.

A communique posted online linked the attack that trashed a Royal Bank outlet to lingering resentment over the Vancouver Olympics, native rights, the Alberta tarsands and the coming G8-G20 meetings in Ontario.

It appears to be just the latest sign that various social concerns have melded into a larger anti-corporate struggle in recent years.

“So it’s not uncommon anymore to see multiple grievances expressed in these communiques,” said Paul Joosse, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta who studies extremist violence.

Research compiled by terrorism analyst Thomas Quiggin indicates anti-Olympic vandals had attacked the branch on at least two previous occasions, and had thrown bricks or other projectiles through the windows of a nearby Royal Bank branch. Branches in other cities have also been defaced.

David Charters, a terrorism specialist at the University of New Brunswick, sees a connection between the latest attack and others tied to major global meetings over the last decade.

“(The attack) in some ways doesn’t come as a surprise because we know that there are various groups that have targeted high-profile businesses in relation to anti-globalization, anti-environmental and other sort of hot-button issues over the years.”

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has kept a careful eye on violence linked to the coming summits for several years. A July 2008 assessment by CSIS noted dozens of acts of vandalism had occurred as part of an “anti-2010 campaign” directed at the Olympics, the G8 and the Security and Prosperity Partnership meetings between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

“In Ottawa, one Royal Bank of Canada branch, a company associated with the sponsorship of the Olympics and the SPP, had its windows smashed several times,” says the CSIS report, released under the Access to Information Act.

Analysts note there have been no serious physical attacks intended to injure people.