MONTREAL: Canadian police arrested a Somalian man early Sunday suspected of stabbing an officer and deliberately ramming pedestrians during a high-speed chase in a rented truck, injuring four in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced as a “terrorist attack.”
The crime spree began Saturday evening outside a football stadium in the western city of Edmonton and ended hours later when the suspect’s U-Haul rental truck flipped onto its side with police in hot pursuit.
Local media named the attacker as 30-year-old Abdulahi Hasan Sharif as authorities confirmed he was a Somalian national who had applied for asylum and was known to the security services following a complaint in 2015.
“There was insufficient evidence to pursue terrorism charges,” Marlin Degrand, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a press conference, adding: “The suspect was not deemed to pose a threat to Canada.”
The recovery of an Islamic State flag from one of the vehicles used in the attacks had led police to pursue the incidents as an act of terrorism.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident a “terrorist attack,” and urged Canadians to be vigilant.
“I am deeply concerned and outraged by this tragedy,” he said in a statement.
“While the investigation continues, early reports indicate that this is another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against,” he said.
“We cannot—and will not—let violent extremism take root in our communities. We know that Canada’s strength comes from our diversity, and we will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us or promote fear,” he said.
At approximately 8:15 p.m. Saturday (0215 GMT Sunday) a man in a speeding white Chevy Malibu crashed through police barricades outside Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, where a Canadian Football League game was being played.
The car struck a police officer standing in front of his patrol car, “sending him flying 15 feet through the air” before crashing into his car, according to a statement by local police.
“A male, believed to be 30 years of age, then jumped out of his vehicle and began viciously stabbing the officer with a knife, as a struggle ensued,” the statement added.
The suspect then fled on foot and the police officer was rushed to a hospital.
The scene was captured on a surveillance video which was released by the police.
Police set up roadblocks around the city of 800,000, and just before midnight police pulled over the U-Haul truck.
When police noticed that the name on the driver’s license was similar to that of the registered owner of the white Malibu, the man took off toward downtown Edmonton, according to the police account.
“He deliberately tried to hit pedestrians in crosswalks and alleys” at two different places, Rod Knecht, chief of Edmonton police, told reporters.