The man who stabbed a policeman on Wednesday at Flint airport in Michigan is a resident of Quebec, the US Federal Police (FBI) said at a briefing.
Policemen were researching the international airport … (AP, Jake May / The Flint Journal-MLive.com) – image 1.0
Police were searching at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich., On Wednesday morning after the attack.
AP, JAKE MAY / THE FLINT JOURNAL-MLIVE.COM
The 49-year-old suspect was identified as Amor Ftouhi in a statement by the Attorney General of the United States.
The authorities consider the incident to be a possible terrorist act, but there is no indication that the assailant was involved in a “wider” strategy, said FBI special investigator David Gelios. The investigation is underway, including in Canada, the FBI said.
The suspect is seen as a “lone wolf,” added Gelios, adding that “no information suggests any training” received.
Witnesses reported that the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) during the attack during which Lieutenant Jeff Neville was stabbed to the neck with a knife.
The policeman survived the attack and is hospitalized in a stable condition.
Mr. Ftouhi was immediately detained. Prosecutors later announced that he was accused of committing an act of violence at an airport.
Mr. Ftouhi appeared in the Federal Court later on Wednesday, and the indictment was presented to him. The court will appoint a lawyer and court spokesman David Ashenfelter has indicated that he will remain in custody until a bail hearing in a week.
On the Canadian side, searches were conducted by the police Wednesday afternoon in a Montreal apartment building, at the request of the FBI.
On television pictures, at least one person was escorted by the police outside the building.
A spokesman for the Montreal Police Service (SPVM), Benoît Boisselle, said that the Montreal police were assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in the search of an apartment on rue Bélair in the Saint- Michel.
The owner of the building, Luciano Piazza, confirmed that a person called Amor Ftouhi had lived in one of the 11 apartments in the building for about six years. He lives there with his wife and their children.
Piazza said he was surprised to find that police had gone to the scene, describing the man as “a very good guy” with whom neither he nor any of his tenants had any problems.
A man who identified himself as a Facebook friend of Mr. Ftouhi said that the accused would not even hurt “a fly.”
Kamel Yahyaoui said in a Facebook conversation with La Presse canadienne that he had known Mr. Ftouhi for 20 years and had met for the first time in Tunisia when he taught at the secondary level.
The RCMP did not respond to calls from The Canadian Press.
Gelios said the suspect legally entered US territory on June 16 by the municipality of Champlain, New York, and arrived at Bishop International Airport on Wednesday morning.
He said that Mr. Ftouhi had spent some time on the first floor of the airport before climbing to another floor where he spent some time in a restaurant. He would then come out carrying luggage.
“He went to the bathroom. He spent a little time [there]. He dropped the baggage and came out, pulled out a knife, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and stabbed Lieutenant Neville to the neck, “reported Mr. Gelios.
At the time of the attack, the assailant allegedly referred to the people killed “in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan”, adding that “we are all going to die”, according to information reported by the FBI.
As he remained in public areas, Mr. Ftouhi was not subject to security clearance, Investigator Gelios said.
The US federal police also said the suspect had asked a police officer who had mastered him why the suspect had not killed him.
Cooperation between the United States and Canada
Public Safety Canada described the incident as a “heinous and cowardly act,” noting that the Canadian authorities were in contact with their US counterparts and assisted them in any way they could.
“There is full cooperation between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, other Canadian authorities and agencies with all their counterparts in the United States, and we will do everything we can to support the case,” said The Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale.
The incident occurred shortly before 10 am on Wednesday morning and resulted in the evacuation of Bishop Airport as well as enhanced security measures elsewhere in Flint, Michigan.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was kept abreast of developments.
Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, said the situation was “under control”, but the authorities were trying to take extra precautions.