A man accused of stabbing two members of Canada’s military at a recruiting centre in Toronto Monday shouted “Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people,” according to Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders.
Police have laid charges, including one of attempted murder, against Ayanie Hassan Ali, a 27-year-old Canadian citizen.
“It will take some time to have a complete picture,” Saunders told reporters Tuesday from police headquarters.
When asked if it was a terror attack, the police chief said: “We’re certainly looking into it,” but cautioned against jumping to any conclusions.
He noted it is too early to say if the accused was radicalized and urged the public against any anti-Islam sentiment in the wake of the attack.
“I don’t want this categorizing a large group of people; that will be very unfair and very inaccurate,” he said, adding he doesn’t want to see any of this “Islamophobia nonsense.”
Saunders said the man was carrying a “very large knife” and was unresponsive after the incident. The chief appealed to the public for tips or information, saying the accused is not co-operating with police.
The suspect has no previous criminal record and there was nothing to indicate he is affiliated with any terrorist organizations, according to Saunders.
Ali, who was born in Montreal and has been in Toronto since 2011, has been charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a weapon, one count of weapons dangerous and one count of aggravated assault.
The accused is expected to make an appearance at the Ontario Court of Justice Tuesday at 2 p.m.
The attack took place at the Joseph Shepard Building at 4900 Yonge St., which is located just north of Sheppard Avenue in the northern part of the city. Several federal government agencies operate out of the complex.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, Maj. Richard Silva with the Canadian Armed Forces said no “unusual activities” were observed before the attack.
“We continue to provide service at the Canadian Armed Forces detachment here in Toronto,” he said. “[It’s] business as usual, although we do remain vigilant to ensure the safety of Canadian Armed Forces members and anyone who visits our recruiting centres.”
Saunders said a man walked past a master corporal stationed at the door of the centre on Monday afternoon and then stabbed him when he tried to stop him. Authorities say he then stabbed a second military member who tried to apprehend him. Attempts to slash a uniformed female Canadian Armed Forces member were unsuccessful, according to the police chief.
The two victims were treated in hospital and have been released. None of the injuries were life-threatening.
Saunders said the incident could have been far more serious if a group of six to eight trained soldiers had not stepped in to take down the attacker.
Some members of Canada’s Muslim community denounced the incident Tuesday as a “hateful act of violence” in a statement provided to CBC News.
“We are deeply troubled to hear about the attack on our Canadian Armed Forces,” said Lal Khan Malik, the national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.
“It is appalling and utterly disgraceful that anyone would carry out such an attack in God’s name,” he added.
The group said they are praying for “swift justice and the rapid recovery of those wounded in this hateful crime.”
Authorities have been in contact with CSIS, OPP and RCMP officials regarding the incident. However, the case remains a Toronto police investigation.
Several leaders, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, have said their thoughts are with the victims.
Goodale said the attack appears to have been an isolated incident and “there is no imminent threat to public safety.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory also issued a statement, saying he was “saddened” by the attack. The mayor said he will be monitoring the situation closely and added Toronto police will be getting assistance from federal authorities.
‘We do remain vigilant’Attack deemed ‘hateful’
With files from The Canadian Press