Flint airport attack being investigated as 'act of terror' by FBI

FBI investigate stabbing at Flint airport

FLINT, MICH. - The FBI says the stabbing of a police officer at a Flint airport Wednesday is being investigated as an 'act of terror,' carried out by a man who yelled "Allahu Akbar" before knifing the officer in the neckwith a 12-inch Amazon Jungle Survival Knife.

"Suffice to say, he has a hatred for the United States," Detroit's FBI Chief David Gelios said of the suspect, who was subdued by law enforcement and taken into custody.

The suspect is 50-year-old Amor Ftouhi of Canada, who was charged in U.S. District Court today with committing a violent act in an airport, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. He is temporarily locked up pending a detention hearing, set for 2:30 p.m. June 28  in Flint federal court.

"We’re seeking search warrants for electronic media, for his vehicle," Gelios added. But at this time, he said, "we view him as a lone wolf attacker."

The victim, Lt. Jeff Neville, who fought the attacker until law enforcement could subdue him, survived the stabbing. He's in satisfactory condition and resting comfortably at a local hospital, authorities said.

“We had some incredible acts of heroism up there today,”  Gelios said.

Read more: Canada condemns airport stabbing

The Flint Islamic Center condemned the attack as a "horrible act of violence" and is planning a prayer vigil for the victim.

"First and foremost, as a faith community, we pray for the full and speedy recovery of Lt. Jeff Neville, and offer any assistance that is needed to his family during this traumatic time," the Flint Islamic Center said in a statement. "We state, in no uncertain terms, that there is no place in civil society for violence against anyone ...

We join hands with our interfaith partners to ensure that this tragic incident does not
divide us as a community. This is a time for us to come together as a community and
not allow outside forces to instigate us to turn against one another. "

Added Dr. Mohammed Saleem, president of the management committee at FIC:
“What happened this morning was a despicable act of violence that cannot be justified
under any circumstance. We, as the people of Flint, must remain united against such senseless acts of violence against anyone, and in particular against any law enforcement officers. We will not allow others with their own political agendas to divide us."

According to the FBI, Ftouhi legally entered the U.S. In Lake Champlain in New York on June 16 and eventually made his way to Flint.

“We have no information to suggest a wider plot,” Gelios said. He added that the suspect was cooperative and talked to the FBI about his motivations, which involved "hatred for the United States."

The stabbing happened at 9:38 a.m. in a publicly accessible area of Bishop International Airport, where the suspect "walked up to a fully uniformed police officer ...  yelled 'Allahu Akbar,' pulled out a knife and stabbed the officer in the neck," FBI agent Thomas Sondgeroth wrote in a criminal complaint filed today.

More: Ford Airport is 'safe and secure' following Flint airport stabbing

"After stabbing the police officer, Ftouhi continued to yell 'Allah' several times," the complaint states.

Then came talk of retaliation.

"He further exclaimed something similar to, 'You have killed people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and we are all going to die,'" the complaint states.

A law enforcement officer managed to subdue Ftouhi.

According to the complaint, the suspect asked the officer "why he didn't kill him."

Following the attack, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement today saying President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice are committed to prioritizing the safety of all law enforcement officers.

" I want to assure all our law enforcement across the nation, any attack on someone who serves and protects our citizens will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I am proud of the swift response from the FBI and our federal prosecutors and their partnership with local police and the Canadian authorities. Our prayers are with the officer and his family for a full recovery.”

On Twitter, Gov. Rick Snyder thanked law enforcement and first responders who assisted at the scene.

“Even with this attack, we must continue to balance our need for increased security with understanding and tolerance,” Snyder tweeted.

Here, according to the criminal complaint, is how the terror attack unfolded at the airport:

At 8:52 a.m., Ftouhi entered the first level of the airport carrying a red duffel and dark satchel. At about 9:10 a.m., he went up an escalator to the second level of the airport. At the top of the escalator, he turned left to go to a restaurant.

Almost a half-hour later, Ftouhi left the restaurant carrying both bags. Within 10 minutes, he entered a second-floor restroom and left almost 30 seconds later without either bag.

Five seconds after exiting the bathroom, he attacked the officer and was subdued by a law enforcement officer shortly afterward.

If convicted, Ftouhi faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Craig Williams, Flint’s airport director, said security is a top priority at the airport, but that he is not yet in a position to make a policy comment on what security levels exist at the airport. He said five flights were affected by the attack and no planes were able to take off until about 4 p.m.

Williams called the day's events "traumatic."

"One of our own was stabbed," he said. "And that’s touching. It hurts on me personally, and it hurts on our staff.”

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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