TORONTO (AP) — A 27-year-old Canadian man said Allah sent him to stab two soldiers at a military recruitment center in Toronto, according to police.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Tuesday the suspect walked into the center on Monday and began attacking a uniformed Canadian Forces member at the front desk slashing him in the arm. The suspect then attempted to slash a female soldier. Before he was subdued, another soldier was injured. Both soldiers' injuries are minor.
"While at the scene, the accused stated that 'Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people,'" Saunders said.
Ayanle Hassan Ali has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and several other counts, according to court documents.
Saunders said police were still investigating whether the attack was terrorism and that there was nothing to indicate the Montreal-born man was working with anyone or any organization. He said Ali had no previous criminal record and responded to questions at the scene.
The police chief urged the public against any anti-Islam sentiment in the wake of the attack.
Ali, dressed in a white jump suit and his hands cuffed behind him, bowed his head when he made a brief court appearance on Tuesday. A justice of the peace imposed a publication ban on his preliminary hearing following a request from his lawyer. His case will be back in court Friday.
"He just seems very scared right now and very unhappy to be in the situation he finds himself in right now," his lawyer David Burke said outside court. "He seems like an intelligent enough man."
Burke declined to say what Ali does for a living or detail his living arrangements. He said his law office was contacted by family.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canadians and the Canadian Forces "will not be intimidated by terror & hate." He also wished those injured a full recovery. General Jonathan Vance, Chief of Canada's Defense Staff, expressed gratitude to those who bravely detained the attacker. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the investigation remains ongoing and terror charges are possible.
"The initial investigation would appear to indicate that this was a singular, lone wolf type of behavior but the investigation is not complete," Goodale said.
"Events of this kind bring back some pretty terrible memories."
In 2014, a man authorities described as an "ISIL-inspired terrorist" ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police. The man had been under surveillance by Canadian authorities, who feared he had jihadist ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey.
Two days later, a gunman killed a Canadian soldier at the war memorial in Ottawa and then stormed Parliament before being shot dead. The man had taken issue with Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan and the fight against the Islamic State group.
Canada's new Liberal government has ended airstrikes against the Islamic State but has tripled the number of soldiers that train Kurdish soldiers in Northern Iraq.