A 27-year-old man accused in a military stabbing at a recruiting centre Monday reportedly yelled “Allah told me to do this,” Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference Tuesday.
“While at the scene, the accused stated: ‘Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people,’” Saunders said.
Ayanle Hassan Ali faces three charges of attempted murder, three charges of assault with a weapon, two charges of aggravated assault and one charge of weapons dangerous.
On Tuesday morning, police laid five charges against Ali. Additional charges were added when Ali later appeared in court. He now faces a total of nine charges.
According to court documents, there are three victims. Jesus Castillo, Tracy Ann Gerhardt and Ryan Kong suffered non life-threatening injuries.
Saunders said police have not ruled out terrorism, as it’s too early in the investigation to tell if Ali was part of a terrorist organization.
“One thing I want to be very, very careful of, that when it comes to the national security piece, we don’t go through that Isalamophobia nonsense,” he said. “I don’t want this categorizing a large group of people. That would be very unfair and very inaccurate.”
Saunders said that on Monday, a man allegedly entered the recruiting centre at the Joseph Shepard Building in North York with a large knife and stabbed two soldiers before being taken down by several soldiers.
Saunders said Ali, who moved to Toronto in 2011, had no prior history of contact with police.
Canadians – and the @CanadianForces – will not be intimidated by terror & hate. May the CAF members injured yesterday make a full recovery.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 15, 2016
CSIS, the OPP and the RCMP have been working with Toronto police since the investigation began.
Canadian Armed Forces Maj. Richard Silva told Humber News reporter Alexandra Martino that there were no unusual actions from the suspect before the attack.
“The safety of all Canadian Armed Forces personnel is our primary concern as well as anybody who visits our recruitment centres,” he said. “The Canadian Armed Forces will be collaborating will civilian authorities and the local police to assist in the official investigation as required.”
Veronica Kitchen, a specialist in counter-terrorism at the University of Waterloo, said once incidents like these happen, it’s common to see the term ‘terrorism’ linked with the crime.
“There has been some history in Canada of attacks on Canadian Armed Forces personnel,” she said. “This is about the fourth in six years and therefore I think your always thinking about whether there might be a connection to a terrorist group,” Kitchen said, adding that organizations like CSIS and the RCMP have mandates to help when it comes to national security.
This latest incident involving an attack on Canadian soldiers comes less than a year after two other attacks that made international headlines.
On Oct. 22, 2014, Martin Couture-Rouleau killed warrant officer Patrice Vincent after hitting him with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Rouleau died in a shootout with police.
Two days later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before dying in a shootout with police in Parliament’s Centre Block.
In 2010, a radical group named Résistance Internationalistes placed a bomb in front of the entrance at a recruitment centre in Trois-Rivieres, Que, destroying the windows but not injuring anyone.
Ali is due back in court on March 18.