A Montreal man accused in a vicious terror strike at the Flint, Mich., airport allegedly cited conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan as justification for his actions.
Though little is known about the background or motives of the alleged attacker, Amor M. Ftouhi, the incident appears to mimic the recent cluster of random and small-scale attacks that have plagued Europe in recent months.
But what may be more troubling is the likely stoking of Americans’ long-running security fears that could potentially end up stifling the flow of people and goods across the Canada-United States border.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ftouhi, 50, entered the U.S. from the Lac-Champlain border crossing south of Montreal on June 16 and spent five days in the country before entering Bishop International Airport in Flint Wednesday morning.
He arrived at the terminal at 8:52 a.m. with a red duffel bag and a dark-coloured satchel, lingered on the lower level until 9:10, then took an escalator to a second-level restaurant where he stayed until entering a bathroom at 9:38 a.m., according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.
Thirty seconds later he emerged from the toilets without his two bags and allegedly attacked Lt. Jeff Neville, an airport security officer.
Ftouhi yelled ‘Allahu akbar,’ pulled out a knife and stabbed the officer in the neck, the FBI complaint said. He further exclaimed something similar to, ‘You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and we are all going to die.’
Ftouhi has been charged with committing violence at an international airport, but there could be additional charges at the investigation progresses, said FBI special agent in charge of the probe, David Gelios.
It’s an ongoing investigation. There are joint operations going on in Canada as we speak, he said.
The suspect was forthcoming with investigators once he was in custody, Gelios said.
He was co-operative and has talked to us about what his motivations were. Suffice it to say he has a hatred for the United States and a variety of other things which motivated him to come to the airport today to conduct this act of violence.
The RCMP and Montreal police executed a search warrant Wednesday afternoon at a Montreal apartment believed to belong to Ftouhi. Three individuals were seen being led out of the building by police.
The owner of apartment said he had been living there for about six years with his wife and children.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the owner said Ftouhi was quiet and had never caused any problems in the building, which counts 11 tenants in total.
He’s a nice person. He was a quiet person. I never had problems with him, he said. For me he’s a good person. I can’t say anything bad.
The RCMP said in a statement that it would not be commenting on the investigation because it is being led by the FBI.
As with any incidents of the nature, the RCMP will work closely with key partners,the force said in a statement.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he had been in contact with RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser about the incident.
Obviously, Canada condemns this heinous and cowardly act. The officer and his family are very much in our prayers at this time.
He offered Canada’s complete co-operation in the probe, which will be looking to determine whether any signs of danger or radicalization were overlooked in the lead-up to the attack.
We’re doing everything we possible can to assist in this matter, Goodale said in Ottawa.
The FBI’s Gelios said investigators are also trying to figure out Ftouhi’s movements and possible activities in the days after he legally crossed the border and before he allegedly carried out the attack.
Neville was transported to hospital in critical condition but was upgraded to stable condition following emergency surgery, officials said.
Ken Brown told The Flint Journal he was dropping off his daughter at the airport and saw the officer bleeding from his neck. He said he saw a man detained by police and a knife on the ground.
The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck, Brown said. I said they need to get him a towel.
Another witness, Cherie Carpenter, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker’s face Wednesday morning at Bishop International Airport.
Carpenter described the man in custody as appearing blank, just totally blank.
The attacker was immediately subdued and arrested after the attack, apparently with some surprise, the FBI noted.
Ftouhi asked the officer why he did not kill him, the charging document stated.