Canadian named as suspect in Michigan airport knife attack

The FBI has identified a Canadian named Amor Ftouhi as the suspected attacker in the stabbing of a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich., Wednesday.

Amor Ftouhi is in custody after stabbing of airport police officer, entered U.S. from Quebec last week

A police dog and handler search cars in a parking lot at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich. Officials evacuated the airport Wednesday morning after an officer who worked at the airport was stabbed in the neck with a knife. (Jake May/The Flint Press)

The FBI has identified Canadian Amor Ftouhi as the suspected attacker in the stabbing of a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich., Wednesday.

U.S. and Canadian authorities have launched a joint terrorism investigation into the stabbing. 

Ftouhi, who is around 50 years old and a resident of Montreal, entered New York state from Quebec on June 16 before making his way to Michigan. Flint is about 80 km northwest of Detroit.

Moments before the FBI publicly named Ftouhi as the suspect, Montreal police raided an apartment in that city's east end.

Canadian Amor Ftouhi of Montreal has been identified as the suspected attacker in the stabbing. (Facebook)

"It's suffice to say he has a hatred for the United States and a variety of other things, which in part motivated him to come to the airport today to conduct this act of violence," said David Gelios, special agent in charge of FBI's Detroit division.

Ftouhi walked into the airport around 9 a.m. ET with a 30-centimetre knife in one of his two bags but did not try to pass through security, according to the FBI. 

About 40 minutes later, Ftouhi went into a restroom and walked out without either of his bags. He then went up to an officer in uniform, yelled "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and pulled out the knife and attacked the officer, according to an account provided by another officer who witnessed the attack and contained in a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ftouhi also yelled something like, "You have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die," the court document said.

Officer recovering

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw identified the officer who was stabbed as Lt. Jeff Neville with the airport police. Shaw said Neville fought his attacker "to the end," managing to stop the stabbing and bring Ftouhi to the ground as other officers arrived to help.

Ken Brown told the Flint Journal newspaper he was dropping off his daughter at the airport and saw the officer bleeding from his neck. He said he saw a man detained by police and a knife on the ground.

"The cop was on his hands and knees bleeding from his neck," Brown said.

Authorities identify Canadian resident Amor Ftouhi as the suspected attacker 1:28

Neville's condition has been upgraded from critical to stable condition.

Genesee County Commissioner Mark Young said he spoke with Neville's family at the hospital. Young said Neville has served in various capacities with the sheriff's office, including in the jail, on road patrol and as a court officer.

The Flint Islamic Center said it would host an interfaith prayer service for Neville on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.

"We as the people of Flint must remain united against such senseless acts of violence against anyone, and in particular against any law enforcement officer," Mohammed Saleem, president of the management committee of the centre, said in a statement.

Canada's minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, confirmed Ftouhi is a Canadian citizen. Goodale issued a statement, saying "the officer and his family and colleagues are foremost in our thoughts and prayers."

Police stand outside an apartment building in Montreal that was raided in connection with the stabbing. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Earlier in the day, the minister said Canada condemns the "heinous and cowardly attack" and that the RCMP are co-operating with the FBI, which is leading the investigation.

As part of the Canadian investigation, police in Montreal descended on that city's St-Michel neighbourhood targeting an apartment on Bélair Street that they suspect is connected to Ftouhi.

Mohcin Asrii, who lives in the building, told CBC that Ftouhi was a quiet family man who had three children and was always kind. 

Ftouhi had been working as a driver through a job placement agency.

His Facebook page says he is originally from Tunis, Tunisia. It's not clear when he moved to Montreal.

Ftouhi later appeared in federal court Wednesday. He will get a court-appointed attorney and will remain in custody until a bond hearing next week, according to court spokesman David Ashenfelter.

A police officer who witnessed the attack told FBI investigators the assailant yelled 'Allahu akbar' (God is great) before he stabbed the officer. (Dominic Adams/The Flint Press)

With files from The Associated Press