Edmonton terror attack suspect was known to police, public safety minister says
The man arrested in a suspected terrorist attack in Edmonton that saw a police officer stabbed and several pedestrians run down with a cube van on Saturday night was known to law enforcement, says Canada’s public safety minister.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a news conference on Sunday in Regina that the suspect, who is in police custody, was on a “police watch list.”
Goodale said the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team was working closely with Edmonton police on the investigation.
“The individual had apparently some appearance on a police watch list, but that is a detail of the investigation that the authorities will pursue in the appropriate way,” Goodale said. “There are no conclusions that can be drawn at the current time.”
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif is the man accused in the attacks, multiple sources tell CBC News.
‘We will not be intimidated’
The 30-year-old suspect in the attacks was apprehended following a high-speed chase just before midnight through streets filled with bar patrons and Edmonton Eskimo football fans. Police have said they believe the man acted alone.
The chase came to an end after the white U-Haul van he was driving struck four pedestrians and flipped on its side.
The injured police officer was taken to hospital and treated for non life-threatening injuries. Details of the pedestrians’ injuries have not been disclosed by emergency officials.
Const. Mike Chernyk was the officer injured in the violent altercation, sources told CBC News. He has since been released from hospital.
Officer was working alone
The officer was working alone at the time of the attack, said Michael Elliott, vice-president of the Alberta Federation of Police Associations and director of the Edmonton Police Association.
Normally officers work exclusively with partners, but exceptions are made when members are hired as security or traffic control officers for special events.
“A lot of questions have come up,” said Elliiott. “People ask, why was this member alone?
“In this unfortunate incident, he was working a special duty event so he was actually hired to work the football game. But on the street, we have criteria that when you’re working, specifically at night, you’re always partnered up. You always have someone.”
Elliott said the incident has left Edmonton’s law enforcement community rattled, and he’s encouraging officers who may be struggling to seek help.
“We just want to make sure that our members are well taken care of, not just physically but mentally as well,” he said. “As you can imagine, it’s a trying time for every member because questions get raised like, ‘Why did this happen?'”
Goodale said the national terrorism threat level for Canada remains at “medium” and by all indications, public safety has been restored.
Canada will not be intimidated by terrorist violence, he said.
“We will not be intimidated by a brutal act of hate,” said Goodale. “Together, we condemn terrorist violence, today and every day, and we will never allow it to contort the way that we want to live our lives.”
The series of violent events was likely the work of a “lone wolf,” says the city’s mayor, Don Iveson who called for vigilance and community solidarity after the chaotic night.
‘A lone wolf attack’
“I wish to urge calm,” Iveson told a news conference Sunday. “To the best of our knowledge this was a lone wolf attack.
“Terrorism is about creating panic and sowing divide and disrupting people’s lives, so we can succumb to that or we can rise above it.”
Iveson described Saturday’s events as “appalling” and commended first responders for their bravery in the “face of chaos.”
He urged Edmontonians to remain calm and united as the investigation continues. But Iveson stressed he’s confident that police are “fully in command” of the situation.
“It is vital now that we not succumb to hatred, that we not be intimidated by violence, and that we respond with love and strength,” Iveson said. “We will not be divided.”
‘Hatred has no place in Alberta’
In a written statement, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley described Saturday’s events as “horrific.”
“It’s left us shocked at the indiscriminate cruelty and angry that someone might target their hatred at places where we gather with our families and friends,” Notley said in the emailed statement.
“Hatred has no place in Alberta. It’s not who we are. We are in this together and together we are stronger than any form of hate.”
Notley said her thoughts remain with the victims, their families and the first responders who showed “incredible bravery.”
“Our first responders are incredible people. Thank you to each and every one of our police officers, paramedics and firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep us safe,” she said.
“Thank you, also, to the women and men who dropped everything to help their fellow Albertans. Your bravery in moments of fear and your compassion in moments of chaos are what’s very best about us.”
Members of Edmonton’s Muslim community strongly condemned the attacks and called for solidarity within the community.
Edmonton human rights activist Ahmed Abdikadir said he felt “anger and frustration” at news the violence may have been the work of a terrorist.
“I’m frustrated that something like this could happen here in Edmonton, right here in my backyard,” said Abdikadir, chairperson of the steering committee of the Safety Summit, a grassroots organization that addresses crime and racism.
“I want to compliment the heroic actions of EPS [Edmonton Police Service]. If they were not there, the law enforcement, it would have been a completely different tragic outcome.
“To the Edmonton community at large, I would like to tell them that we stand together and unite against hate. And let’s solve this problem collectively, rather than pointing fingers at each other.”
Trudeau outraged by tragedy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement Sunday, saying he was deeply concerned by Saturday’s events.
“The Government of Canada and Canadians stand with the people of Edmonton after the terrorist attack on Saturday,” he said. “I am deeply concerned and outraged by this tragedy.”
“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,” Trudeau said.
Edmonton police released grainy footage of a car ramming a crowd control barricade with a uniformed officer standing beside it. The footage shows the officer being tossed about five metres into the air as the car slams into the front of a parked police cruiser.
The video shows two people walking by with their dogs rushing towards the officer on the ground. But they run off when the driver gets out of the car and appears to start stabbing the officer.
The police officer appears to wrestle with the driver on the ground and, at one point, it appears the officer is on top of the driver. Footage shows them both getting to their feet and the driver runs across the street while the officer slowly follows him into traffic.
Police launched a manhunt for the suspect.
Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said an Islamic State flag was found in the front seat of the car and was seized as evidence.
A few hours later, while fans filed out of the football game and were re-routed around the crime scene, a U-Haul cube van was stopped at a checkstop north of downtown.
When the driver was asked for his licence, Knecht said the name on the identification was close to that of the registered owner of the white Malibu.
Knecht said that when confronted, the U-Haul driver sped off toward downtown with police cars in pursuit. The van intentionally swerved at pedestrians in crosswalks, Knecht said.
The name of the suspect was not released. Knecht said he was known to police, but there was no warning for the attack.
Knecht is expected to provide an update at a 3 p.m. MT at a news conference on Sunday afternoon.
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