CF stabbing suspect once had restricted security clearance at Pearson
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:30PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 16, 2016 9:01PM EDT
The suspect in a stabbing attack at a Canadian Forces recruiting office in North York was once permitted to work in restricted areas at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Greater Toronto Airport Authority spokesperson Siobhan Desroches said the 27-year-old man “worked for a third-party tenant” of the airport and carried a restricted area identification card, allowing him to enter secure areas of the facility between December 2008 and March 2009.
Sources tell CP24 the man worked as a groundskeeper at the airport.
In a statement provided to CP24 Wednesday night, Transport Canada said that the suitability of applicants to obtain security clearance to restricted areas is based on a “rigorous program” of background checks provided by both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in addition to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“Transport Canada grants a security clearance to applicants who do not pose a risk to transportation security,” the statement reads.
“If the department obtains credible information indicating that an applicant or an existing clearance holder poses a transportation security risk, the department responds immediately to review the clearance of the individual in question and will suspend it as required.”
Speaking with CP24 Wednesday night, Toronto's top cop provided few new details on the investigation.
“We’re still trying to look for witnesses with respect to the incident that occurred,” Chief Mark Saunders said.
“We’re working with other agencies to try to determine if we can establish a motive.”
On Monday afternoon, police arrested a suspect after Canadian Forces members were attacked at a government building on Yonge Street in Willowdale.
Police have said a man wielding a knife yelled that Allah told him to carry out the attack.
Police have said the investigation is in its early stages and they are still trying to determine a possible motive in the attack.
On Wednesday police searched the home on Albion Road, near Weston Road, where the suspect lives with his mother and sister.
Neighbours and friends told CP24 that the suspect accused of carrying out the slashing attack does not square with the man they know.
“I couldn’t believe it. He’s a nice guy, he’s quiet, he’s not a person who makes trouble. But I don’t know what happened,” neighbor Nadifo Mahamud told CP24.
The suspect, identified by police Tuesday as Ayanle Hassan Ali, is a Montreal-born man who has been living in Toronto for about five years.
Mahamud said she has known Ali for a number of years.
“When you know the person is a good person, you can’t believe what happened,” she said.
Another neighbor, Grade 12 student Huda Muddei, described Ali as humble and “an honorable person, someone you would never expect this to happen to.”
“Seeing this on the news really breaks my heart because I know he is a person who will go out of his way for people,” Muddei said. “He will take the garbage from you knowing you can take it yourself. He goes to the mosque. He’ll do anything and everything he can for the people that he cares about.”
Muddei said she can’t believe that the person being described is the same person she knows.
“He’s a brother, he has a family. He has a community. He has me 100 per cent behind him. And I know that this is completely out of his character. This isn’t who he is,” she said.
Citing a cousin, the Toronto Star reported Wednesday that Ali began to show signs of dramatic change starting in 2011. The cousin, Mariam Adam, told the Star that Ali lived with her in Edmonton after putting his studies on hold and said in 2011 he became less social and started to talk about conspiracy theories, class struggle, cults and religion.
The University of Calgary confirmed Wednesday that Ali was registered as an open studies student in the winter and summer terms of 2009, but was not enrolled in any specific program.
While police are still investigating what motivated the attack, Muslim groups have been quick to respond to reports that Muslim terminology was associated with the act.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Council of Imams released a statement saying the group is “deeply shocked” by news of the attack.
“It is very sad to know that the individual who attacked our on-duty soldiers uttered the word ‘Allah’ according to some media sources, which indicates that he may belong to the Muslim faith,” Dr. Mohammad Iqbal AlNadvi, the chairman of the council, said.
“The Canadian Council of Imams strongly denounces this criminal act and there is nothing that justifies such insanity.”
Ali has been remanded into custody until his next court appearance.