Michel Comte, AFP, March 15, 2016
A Canadian man claimed to have acted on orders from Allah when he stabbed soldiers at a recruiting center in Toronto, authorities said Tuesday.
Ayanle Hassan Ali, 27, has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon.
The attack took place in a government office building Monday, more than two years after Islamists killed two soldiers in Ottawa and in rural Quebec.
Ali is alleged to have entered the building and without provocation stabbed a soldier in the arm at the reception desk, then sought to wound a second soldier before he was subdued.
The suspect was overheard saying at the scene of the attack, “Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to kill people,” Toronto police chief Mark Saunders told reporters.
He appears to have acted alone, Saunders said.
Toronto police have asked federal prosecutors and security agencies for help in determining if there is a link to organized extremist movements.
“The investigation’s incredibly early, there has to be a lot of analysis that has to be done so we can give a full and proper picture as to what exactly motivated this act,” Saunders explained.
“At this point in time, the charges that we’ve laid are criminal.”
Few details were released concerning the suspect, who was born in Montreal and settled in Toronto in 2011.
“He has family, I’m not sure exactly where they’re located,” Saunders said.
Following his arrest, the suspect was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation, and was scheduled to make a brief court appearance later Tuesday.
Neither victim was seriously wounded, police said.
The stabbing in Toronto is reminiscent of two separate incidents in October 2014 when a gunman shot dead a ceremonial guard in Ottawa, then stormed parliament, and another man killed a Canadian soldier in a hit-and-run in rural Quebec.
The attacks by radicalized Canadians occurred days apart and set Canada on a war-footing, while sowing fear across the nation.
Canada had already sent fighter jets to join a US-led coalition launching air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
But after the attacks, a defiant prime minister Stephen Harper extended the mission and dramatically expanded the powers and reach of Canada’s spy agency, allowing it to operate overseas for the first time.
It was later revealed that in the weeks before the October 2014 attacks, authorities were concerned about IS urging sympathizers in the West to “launch attacks against members of law enforcement from countries fighting its troops.”
“Canadians and the Canadian forces will not be intimidated by terror or hate,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took office in November and ordered Canada’s fighter jets home.
Saunders, meanwhile, urged Canadians not to jump to conclusions before the police investigation is completed.
“One of the things that I want to be very, very careful of when it comes to national security (is) that we don’t go through that Islamophobia nonsense,” he said.
“I don’t want this (act of a lone individual) categorizing a large group of people, that will be very unfair and very inaccurate.”