The FBI is investigating a stabbing Wednesday at the Flint, Michigan, airport in which a man slashed the throat of a police officer while yelling, “Allahu akbar!”
The FBI has taken over the investigation but said it is “too early” to tell if the knife attack, which happened at about 9:30 a.m., was an act of terrorism. A male suspect is in custody.
At a press conference later in the afternoon, police identified the suspect as Amor Ftouhi, 49, a Canadian citizen originally from Tunisia. He entered the U.S. on June 16 through New York.
According to prosecutors, Ftouhi walked up to officer Jeff Neville, who was in full uniform, and stabbed him in the neck. He then shouted “Allahu Akbar,” and referenced “killings in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Neville was seen down on his knees, bleeding profusely from his neck, a large knife lying nearby on the ground.
Ftouhi used a 12-inch knife with an 8-inch serrated blade, police said.
“We are aware of reports that the attacker made statements immediately prior to or while attacking the officer, but it is too early to determine the nature of these alleged statements or whether or not this was an act of terrorism,” the FBI said in a statement.
The statement continued: “Based on the information that we have at this time, we believe this to be an isolated incident. We currently have no specific, credible information that there is a threat to the Flint community.”
But during the press conference held more than six hours after the attack, the FBI admitted it was an act of terrorism.
Neville, according to witnesses, was standing at the top of the escalator when he was attacked from behind by a man yelling the infamous Islamic slogan, which in Arabic means “Allah is the greatest!” He proceeded to try to behead the officer.
On Twitter, Michigan State Police said the officer was in critical condition and the FBI was leading the investigation. But MLive is reporting Neville’s condition has been upgraded to stable.
Bishop International Airport in Flint was immediately evacuated and flights canceled.
According to the airport’s Facebook page: “An airport police officer has been injured. All passengers are safe and are being evacuated at this time.”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver told the Detroit News that a “significant security event” occurred at the airport Wednesday morning and officials have told her one man is in custody. The News referred to him as “a person of interest.”
Watch local news report on the attack:
MLive is reporting the officer was stabbed in the neck. The news outlet said it spoke with a witness who told them “he saw a man detained near a knife and an officer on his knees and bleeding from the neck.”
According to the airport’s Facebook page: “All passengers are safe and are being evacuated at this time. We will release more information as we have it.”
Neville was retired from the Genessee County Sheriff’s Office.
Cherie Carpenter told Flint TV station WJRT she saw the attacker’s face Wednesday morning at Bishop International Airport. She was awaiting a flight to Texas to see her new grandchild.
Carpenter described the man in custody as appearing “blank, just totally blank.”
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Detroit News, one of two major newspapers serving the city, did not report that the assailant screamed “Allahu akbar!” The Detroit Free Press also omitted the key Arabic phrase overheard at the airport.
CNN also declined to report the Islamic slogan heard from the attacker.