Somali refugee faces terror charges in Canada attacks
Canadian media say a Somali refugee has faced five counts of attempted murder and other terror charges in connection with the recent stabbing and car-ramming attacks in the western city of Edmonton.
Police did not identify the “Lone wolf” suspect, who was said to be a refugee already on a police watch list for his extremist views.
The attacks in Edmonton on Sunday saw a car hit a police officer standing in front of a football stadium. The driver then got out of the Chevy Malibu and stabbed the officer multiple times before fleeing, according to police and CCTV footage.
While on the run, he was stopped at a checkpoint and asked to show his license. The assailant, however, fled the area after he was identified by the security officers there, but he was detained after a police chase across a downtown street, during which he hit four pedestrians.
Canadian media identified the suspect in the attacks as Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, although Reuters was not immediately able to confirm his identity.
He had been investigated two years ago for promoting extremist ideology but was not deemed a threat, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand said an “exhaustive investigation” into the man in 2015 did not uncover sufficient evidence to pursue charges.
“To the best of our knowledge, this was a lone-wolf attack. There’s no immediate cause for panic or concern,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told reporters.
Meanwhile, police cordoned off an apartment block near downtown Edmonton, where agents were seen carrying large bags of equipment into the building.
The police officer, who was wounded in the assaults, was released from hospital along with two pedestrians. A third pedestrian was upgraded to stable from critical, while the fourth suffered a fractured skull and had regained consciousness.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau censured the “terrorist attack” and said it was “another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against.”
Canada’s government said it would keep the terrorist threat level at medium, where it has been since late 2014.
The Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council also denounced the attack and hundreds attended a Sunday evening rally organized by the group.
“These types of acts, whether terrorism or not, seek to divide communities. We have to show that’s not going to happen, not in Edmonton,” said group spokesman Aurangzeb Qureshi.
Canada has been dealing in recent months with a surge in illegal border crossings by people seeking refugee status, a situation which has renewed debate over whether it should tighten its borders.
The North American country has not experienced as much violence from extremist attacks as the United States and Western European nations, but there have been several deadly incidents in recent years.
In January, a French-Canadian university student was charged with murder after six people were shot and killed inside a Quebec City mosque.
In 2015, a videotape attributed to al-Shabab, a Somali-based Takfiri militant group behind a deadly 2013 attack on a Kenyan shopping center, threatened North American malls, including the West Edmonton Mall.