April 11, 2019 1:07 pm
Updated: April 12, 2019 9:29 am

Montreal terrorist considered targeting U.S. college and ‘gay club’ before attacking airport

New details are emerging about Amor Ftouhi, the Montreal man charged with Wednesday's attack at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. Mike Armstrong spoke to neighbours and was inside the suspect's apartment building.

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A Montreal man convicted of transnational terrorism for a 2017 attack at a U.S. airport had initially considered targeting a college and “gay club,” prosecutors have revealed.

Before slashing the throat of a police officer at a Michigan airport, Amor Ftouhi used the public wifi at a McDonald’s to search Google maps for “guy club,” “gay club” and “aeroport.”

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The evidence of his searches, which came a year after the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 49, was not presented at his trial because it was considered too prejudicial.

He had also searched for directions to Baker College in Flint, Michigan, leading authorities to suspect it had been a potential target.

READ MORE: Deadly export: Canadians responsible for hundreds of terrorism deaths and injuries overseas

U.S. prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Ftouhi, arguing in a court filing that while he had a “good life in Canada” he was “so consumed by hate that he left all of that aside to pursue his mission of murder.”

“If not for luck and the courageous actions of Bishop airport employees, Ftouhi would have murdered countless innocent people,” they wrote.

According to the prosecutors, Ftouhi is without remorse and sent a letter to his wife in Montreal that read: “Tell my children that I love them all; they must be proud of their father, who is fighting the infidel criminals.”

“I am not like the other Muslims, who are all talk and no action, who have held on to earthly matters, and stayed away from jihad,” the letter continued.

Amor Ftouhi of Montreal conducting surveillance at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan the day before his planned terrorist attack.

The 51-year-old former school janitor and delivery driver was convicted of terrorism last November for the June 21, 2017, stabbing of an officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan.

Following the attack, he told the FBI he was a “soldier of Allah,” supported Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and believed the United States was the enemy.

“Ftouhi stated he wanted to kill a USG [U.S. government] employee at a location that would receive worldwide attention and therefore, Donald Trump would hear him,” according to an FBI report.

His sentencing is scheduled for next week.

Evidence photo of the firearm Amor Ftouhi tried to buy at a Michigan gun show prior to his attack.

In their sentencing arguments, his lawyers said Ftouhi was disappointed with his life in Canada. Since immigrating from Tunisia in 2007 he collected welfare and worked at “menial jobs,” which they attributed to Canadian intolerance.

“Mr. Ftouhi’s struggle to find employment was not unique to him. He was among many Muslims in Canada (Quebec especially) experiencing discrimination and Islamophobia,” they argued, citing the January 2017 Quebec mosque shooting.

Rather than being an ideological extremist, Ftouhi was hopeless as a result of being “wholly unprepared for the challenges he would face both as a first-generation immigrant and as a Muslim in a predominantly Christian city,” they wrote.

His attack was an act of “killing to be killed,” said the defence lawyers, who want a 25-year sentence.

Evidence photo showing stabbing injuries to airport police officer Jeff Neville.

But following his arrest, Ftouhi told the FBI he had been an Al Qaeda [AQ] supporter since at least the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which he said he had celebrated. He also said he was “upset” when bin Laden [UBL] was killed.

“Ftouhi believes there is a war on Muslims and agrees with UBL’s statements that the USG is the problem. Ftouhi stated that when AQ and UBL attacked the USG, it was done for Allah.”

He claimed he was a victim of discrimination in Montreal because his car tires were once slashed, he didn’t get prayer breaks at work and he missed out on delivery jobs because he refused to transport alcohol.

After losing his latest job, he decided “enough was enough and it was time for him to act,” the FBI wrote.

He researched how to buy a firearm in the U.S. and drove to a Michigan gun show, but vendors wouldn’t sell to him because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Instead, he bought a $15 knife.

He then searched online for possible targets, settling on the Flint airport. The day before the attack, he visited the airport and observed police, then slept in his vehicle in a nearby parking lot.

The next day, he returned and saw a police officer standing alone. “Ftouhi planned to kill the police officer and take his gun to kill other officers,” according to the FBI report.

But he was quickly tackled and the officer survived.

READ MORE: Canadian sentenced to 40 years for ISIS plot to attack Times Square, subway

“Ftouhi was on a mission to commit a jihadi attack against the United States,” the prosecutors argued.

“Ftouhi may have been unsatisfied with his life but he tried to kill Jeff Neville and intended to kill countless more because he dreamed of being a mujahedeen – a warrior.”

He was the second Canadian in just over a year arrested in the U.S. over a cross-border terror plot. In 2016, a Mississauga, Ont., teenager, Abdulrahm El-Bahnasawy, was arrested in New Jersey for conspiring with ISIS to conduct attacks in New York City.

In January, RCMP arrested a Kingston youth on terrorism charges.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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