EDMONTON, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada defended its immigration and refugee vetting system on Monday after a Somali immigrant, who had drawn scrutiny for his alleged extremist views, was charged with attempted murder for a weekend car and knife attack that injured five.
Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, is accused of running down a police officer with his car in Edmonton, Alberta, and then stabbing him repeatedly. He then ran down four pedestrians during an attempt to evade capture.
He faces 11 charges including five for attempted murder linked to the rampage in the western Canadian city on Saturday night.
Sharif had been investigated two years ago for promoting extremist ideology but was not deemed a threat after an “exhaustive investigation,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Sunday.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said it would be wrong to blame the attack on any alleged shortcomings or failures in Canada’s immigration and refugee vetting system.
“There’s absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever. The investigation is ongoing, but that conclusion is just not supported by the facts,” Goodale told reporters in Ottawa as he headed into a meeting of the Liberal government’s cabinet.
The incident in Edmonton began when a Chevy Malibu slammed into a police officer standing in front of a football stadium at about 8:15 p.m. (0215 Sunday GMT), hitting him with enough force to send him flying into the air.
The driver then got out of the car and stabbed the officer multiple times before fleeing, according to police accounts and surveillance footage.
Police identified the suspect when he stopped at a checkpoint and his license showed that he was the owner of the Malibu. He fled the checkpoint, however, and was only arrested after careening across a downtown street and hitting four pedestrians.
A flag of the Islamic State militant group was found inside the Malibu, said Rod Knecht, police chief of Edmonton, Alberta’s provincial capital.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Edmonton attack “another example of the hate that we must remain ever vigilant against.”
Despite the incident, Canada’s government said it was keeping the terrorist threat level at medium, where it has been since late 2014.
Canada has been dealing in recent months with a surge in illegal border crossings by people seeking refugee status as they flee from the threat of deportation in the United States.
The influx, fueled by fears stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants, has renewed debate over whether Canada should tighten its borders and become less open to asylum seekers.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Tom Brown