Flint, Mich. (AP) — A Canadian man shouted in Arabic before stabbing a police officer in the neck Wednesday at a Michigan airport, and referenced people being killed overseas during the attack that’s now being investigated as an act of terrorism, federal officials said.
Amor Ftouhi, 49, of Quebec, was immediately taken into custody. A criminal complaint charging him with committing violence at an airport says Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why the officer didn’t kill him.
The attack at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, is being investigated as an act of terrorism, but authorities have no indication at this time that the suspect was involved in a “wider plot,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios.
“At this time we view him as a lone-wolf attacker,” Gelios said. “We have no information to suggest any training.”
The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed airport police Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife after yelling “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” According to the FBI, Ftouhi said something similar to “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”
More charges against Ftouhi could be filed as prosecutors take the case to a grand jury seeking an indictment, Gelios said.
Neville was in satisfactory condition after initially being in critical condition, airport police Chief Chris Miller said at a late afternoon news conference where the charge against Ftouhi was announced.
Ftouhi appeared in federal court in Flint to hear the charge and will get a court-appointed attorney. A court spokesman says Ftouhi will remain in custody until a bond hearing next Wednesday.
The attack occurred just before 10 a.m., prompting officials to evacuate and shut down the airport and add security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles (80.46 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump was briefed on the stabbing, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was “proud of the swift response” by authorities from both the U.S. and Canada.
Police in Canada were searching a Montreal apartment. Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boiselle said officers with their department were assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the search on behalf of an FBI request. A number of police stood guard outside the apartment building in the east end of Montreal located on Bélair St. in St-Michel borough. Canadian TV footage showed police escorting at least one person from the building where Ftouhi is believed to have lived.
Gelios said Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. at Champlain, New York, on June 16 and made his way to the Flint airport on Wednesday morning.
Ftouhi spent some time in public, unsecured areas of the airport before going to a restroom where he dropped two bags before attacking the officer with a 12-inch knife that had an 8-inch serrated blade, Gelios said.
Ftouhi never went through any security screening, Gelios said. He described Ftouhi as “cooperative” and talking to investigators.
Witnesses described seeing the suspect being led away as Neville was bleeding, a knife on the ground.
“The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck,” Ken Brown told The Flint Journal. “I said they need to get him a towel.”
Cherie Carpenter, who was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild, told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker being led away in handcuffs. She described the man in custody as appearing “blank, just totally blank.”
Miller, the airport chief, said Neville “fought him to the end,” managing to stop the stabbing and bring Ftouhi to the ground as Miller and other officers arrived to help.
Stabbed in the neck or attempted to behead? According to Coed.com, Ftouhi is a Tunisian.
Confirmed he is a Tunisian Muslim.
Investigators are working to learn more about Ftouhi, whom they describe as a lone-wolf attacker who made his way from Canada to the seemingly random destination of Flint, a struggling Michigan city once known for its sprawling General Motors factories but now better known for lead-tainted water.
Once in the U.S., he unsuccessfully tried to buy a gun, but instead managed to buy a knife, David Gelios, head of the FBI in Detroit said Thursday. He did not elaborate.
Ftouhi, a dual citizen of Canada and Tunisia, stabbed airport police Lt. Jeff Neville with a large knife after yelling “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.” According to the FBI, Ftouhi said something similar to “you have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.”
Ftouhi was immediately taken into custody and was charged in a criminal complaint with committing violence at an airport. Acting U.S. Attorney Dan Lemisch says more charges are coming in the days ahead. Ftouhi is in custody and has a bond hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
He also said that Ftouhi was “neither on the radar of Canadian authorities or FBI or United States authorities.”
Ftouhi indicated to court officials that he has lived in Canada for 10 years and has three children. A pretrial services officer told a judge that he had worked on and off as a truck driver and last worked about two weeks ago. He indicated “no mental or physical health problems and no drug or alcohol use,” the officer, Linsey Carson, said.
Ftouhi’s Facebook page reveals little about him. He has three friends and appeared several years ago to enjoy playing a Facebook video game called Army Attack. His only postings in the past four years are a pair of Arabic-language YouTube videos — one discussing ways to memorize the Quran and another showing how to prevent someone from swallowing their tongue.
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