Thursday, June 22, 2017

{UAH} Montrealer Amor Ftouhi charged in Michigan airport stabbing

Montrealer Amor Ftouhi charged in Michigan airport stabbing

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A Montreal man entered the Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan Wednesday morning, yelled "Allahu akbar!" and stabbed a security officer in the neck, according to U.S. federal prosecutors.

Amor Ftouhi, 49, was arrested shortly after the incident and charged with committing violence at an airport.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, assisted by the Montreal police, searched Ftouhi's apartment on Bélair St. in Montreal's St-Michel district. Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said the search was being conducted at the request of the FBI, and added that the Montreal police anti-terrorism squad was also involved.  

The Bélair St. building where a major police investigation is underway for terrorist activities on Wednesday June 21, 2017. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

According to his Facebook page, Ftouhi was born in Tunis, Tunisia, where he studied at the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Tunis. The page also says he graduated from Collège O'Sullivan, a private, bilingual college on de la Montagne St. in Montreal. Industrielle Alliance, an insurance company headquartered in Quebec City with offices on McGill College Ave., is listed as one of Ftouhi's past employers.

Luciano Piazza, the owner of the 11-unit building, said Ftouhi has been renting an apartment from him for six years, and lived there with his wife and children. Piazzi, who said he hadn't heard about the airport stabbing, called Ftouhi "a very good guy," and added that neither he nor any of the building's residents ever had any trouble with him.

U.S. law enforcement authorities say a man allegedly involved in the stabbing of a police officer at a Michigan airport is a Canadian resident. They have identified the suspect as 50-year-old Amor Ftouhi.  FACEBOOK

Other neighbourhood residents contacted by the Montreal Gazette said they knew nothing about Ftouhi or his life, with many saying they had never even seen him before. One woman who did recognize Ftouhi said she has never spoken to him because he looked unsociable. 

The RCMP refused to divulge any more information on the investigation Wednesday night. Their search caused quite a stir in the neighbourhood, with groups of people who live blocks away coming over to see what the commotion was all about. Several drivers stopped in front of the building where Ftouhi lives to ask what was going on.

Earlier Wednesday, FBI special agent in charge David Gelios told a news conference outside the Bishop airport that the stabbing took place around 9:45 a.m. in Flint, about 80 kilometres northwest of Detroit.

Ftouhi appeared in federal court and heard the charge against him late Wednesday. He will get a court-appointed attorney.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the stabbing is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Sessions said in a statement that he is "proud of the swift response" by authorities from both nations, and added it will be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Court spokesman David Ashenfelter says Ftouhi will remain in custody until a bond hearing next Wednesday.

Police officers gather at a terminal at Bishop International Airport, Wednesday morning, in Flint, Mich. Officials evacuated the airport Wednesday, where a witness said he saw an officer bleeding from his neck and a knife nearby on the ground. DOMINIC ADAMS / CP

Ftouhi entered the United States legally in Lake Champlain, N.Y., on June 16 and made his way to Flint on Wednesday morning, Gelios said.

"We do know Mr. Ftouhi entered the airport, he spent a little time on the first level, then he went upstairs he spent some time in the restaurant up there," he said.

"Then he came out, he was carrying baggage. He went into a restroom. He spent a little time in the restroom. Dropped both bags and came out, pulled out a knife, yelled 'Allahu akbar,' and stabbed Lt. Neville in the neck."

Lt. Jeff Neville with the Bishop International Airport police underwent surgery and his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable, said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw.

Authorities said they have no indication at this time that Ftouhi was involved in a "wider plot," but the investigation is in its early stages.

The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Neville with a large knife and declared "Allahu akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great." The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to "you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die."

Montreal police officers stand near Bélair St. apartment where a major police investigation is underway for terrorist activities on Wednesday June 21, 2017. Police are investigating the apartment of Amor Ftouhi. PIERRE OBENDRAUF /MONTREAL GAZETTE

"As we progress and take this matter to grand jury for indictment, other charges could be pending later on," Gelios said. "It's an ongoing investigation, there are joint operations going on in Canada as we speak. We want to thank our Canadian partners who are helping us further investigate this attack."

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the incident a "heinous and cowardly attack."

"There is complete co-operation between the RCMP and other Canadian authorities and agencies with all of their counterparts in the United States and we will do everything we possibly can to assist in this matter," Goodale told reporters in Ottawa.

SPVM police officer outside Bélair St. apartment where a major police investigation is underway for terrorist activities following the arrest of a man identified as a Montrealer after a stabbing in Michigan. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Meanwhile, witnesses in Flint described seeing the suspect led away in handcuffs by police, Neville bleeding and a knife on the ground.

"The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck," Ken Brown told local media.

Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told a local TV station she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing "blank, just totally blank."

Safia Ahmad of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.

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