TORONTO — The 27-year-old man accused of stabbing two soldiers at a Canadian Forces recruitment centre previously worked at Toronto’s largest airport and had access to restricted areas.
Ayanle Hassan Ali worked for a third party employer at Toronto Pearson International Airport from December 2008 to March 2009 and possessed a Restricted Area Identification Card, according to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.
“We join all Canadians in wishing the injured soldiers a speedy recovery, and in saluting the brave personnel who intervened to defuse the attack.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Ali walked into the office located in a federal government building in north Toronto around 3 p.m. Monday and slashed a male soldier behind the counter in the arm with a “large knife,” then tried and failed to stab a female soldier before being subdued by Forces members, one of whom was injured in the process.
Both soldiers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.
Saunders told reporters Tuesday the accused said at the scene “Allah told me to do this. Allah told me to come here and kill people.”
WATCH: Montreal man faces charges after Toronto military recruitment office stabbings
Police said they believe Ali acted alone in the stabbing but added investigators are looking into any possible connections with terror groups.
Saunders said Ali is a Montreal-born Canadian citizen living in Toronto since 2011. He said the accused had no prior contact with police.
RCMP and federal agencies are involved in the case and terrorism charges aren’t being ruled out, Saunders said.
Ali’s lawyer David Burke told reporters the accused is “very scared right now” and may seek bail. Burke refused to answer questions on his client’s personal life or background. The charge sheet states Ali lives in north Etobicoke in the city’s west end.
Police initially announced five charges against Ali but court documents say he faces nine offences: three counts each of attempted murder and assault with a weapon, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of weapons dangerous.
A bulletin issued to members of the Toronto Police Service on Monday and obtained by Global News warned officers to be aware of “potential sympathizers or lone-actors” who may commit similar acts.
It further reminded officers to “maintain heightened vigilance for suspicious behaviour.”
With files from Will Campbell