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Somali Refugee Accused Of Terrorism Was On A Watch List

REUTERS/Candace Elliott

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

The Somali refugee accused of terrorism and stabbing an Edmonton police office was on a watch list, but Edmonton police say they had no warning of the attack.

An ISIS flag was found in the car driven by the suspect.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale acknowledged Sunday that Abdulahi Hasan Sharif “apparently had some appearance on a police watch list.”

But when asked at a Sunday afternoon news conference about receiving any intelligence reports indicating that Sharif posed a threat, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht responded “absolutely not.”

Sharif was accused of stabbing 48-year-old Constable Mike Chernyk, after Sharif ran into the police officer with his Chevy Malibu car. While the two fought on the ground, Shaiff repeatedly stabbed Chernyk with what might have been a Bowie knife and then ran away from the scene on foot. The suspect was later sighted by police in a white U-Haul van and high-speed chase ensued through the crowded streets of downtown Edmonton. The van struck four pedestrians before hitting a wall and flipping on its side.

Police have charged Sharif with terrorism, five counts of attempted murderer, dangerous driving and possession of a weapon.

Sharif has been the subject of a police investigation in the past. In 2015, due to reports of Islamic extremism brewing in the Edmonton Somali community, the RCMP counterterrorism unit interviewed Sharif, who was described as “espousing extremist ideology.” The case was closed without any additional intervention by police.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marlin Degrand told reporters at Sunday’s news conference that “there was insufficient evidence to pursue terrorism charges or a peace bond. Further, the suspect was not deemed, at that time, to pose a threat to the security of Canada based on the information that was available to investigators.”

Edmonton police continue to maintain that — for now — Saturday’s terrorist attack was an isolated incident and that the suspect acted on his own.

“From all indications, it appears that this was a single individual acting alone, Knecht said. But he said an ongoing investigation could change that theory. “We are actually less than 24 hours into this investigation. We have no reason to believe that there is any threat to our city, but we encourage citizens to be vigilant and to report any unusual or suspicious activities to our police complaint line.”

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