TORONTO – A man who allegedly said Allah instructed him to kill was charged Tuesday with stabbing and wounding two uniformed soldiers at a north-end military recruitment centre a day earlier.
While investigators were probing possible terror links, the city’s police chief said there didn’t appear to any connection to terrorist groups, although it appeared the man had deliberately targeted military personnel.
“To date, there is nothing to indicate the accused is working with anyone or in concert with any organization,” Chief Mark Saunders said. “It will take some time to have a complete picture.”
The incident occurred mid-afternoon Monday, when a man walked into the government building that houses a Canadian Armed Forces recruitment centre on the ground floor.
He walked into an office with a “large knife” in hand and began striking a uniformed master corporal, who fell to the ground, Saunders said. The soldier was able to get to his feet, at which point the suspect slashed his right arm.
As military personnel moved civilians to safety, police said he tried and failed to slash a female soldier before other soldiers were able to subdue him and hold him for police. Another military member was stabbed trying to apprehend the suspect.
“While at the scene, the accused stated that ‘Allah told me to do this; Allah told me to come here and kill people,'” Saunders said.
Following the arrest, the accused became “non-responsive,” Saunders said, meaning he refused to answer any police questions. He was taken to hospital because of his behaviour. The two soldiers required treatment for minor injuries.
The incident evoked memories of two separate attacks in 2014 that left two soldiers dead, one in Ottawa and another in Montreal. Investigators said both accused in those cases had become radicalized.
Saunders said Toronto police were working with federal security and anti-terrorism forces on the investigation. At the same time, he warned the public against any anti-Islam sentiment in the aftermath of the attack, saying Islamic extremists are relatively tiny in number.
“One of the things I want to be very careful of when it comes to the national security piece that we don’t go do that Islamaphobia nonsense,” Saunders said. “I don’t want this categorizing of a large group of people; that would be very unfair and very inaccurate.”
Police named the suspect as Montreal-born Ayanie Hassan Ali, 27, who moved to Toronto in 2011. Ali was charged with several offences, including two counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault. He was due to appear in court later Tuesday.
Saunders said the Canadian citizen had no previous criminal record and he appealed for anyone who might have helpful information to contact them. Police were obtaining search warrants for the man’s west-end home. They also said he had family, but did not elaborate.
A spokesman at the recruiting centre said no one had observed any “unusual activities” before the attack occurred.
“Obviously it’s not something we see on a daily basis,” Maj. Richard Silva said. “However we are professionals and we always have to take care of our own people.” Silva said it was “business as usual” Tuesday at the facility.
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