Terrorism charges laid after knife attack

Abdul Aziz Kawam is pictured in an artist's court sketch as he made an appearance in Surrey provincial court Monday. (Felicity Don)

Abdul Aziz Kawam is alleged to have committed assaults for the “Islamic State” A man who allegedly slashed a man’s throat on a transit bus in Surrey, B.C. is facing terrorism charges.

According to court documents filed by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the man is alleged to have committed the assault for “the Islamic State” — commonly known as ISIS. Abdul Aziz Kawam, born in 1995, faces four terrorism charges for attempted murder, aggravated assault and two counts of assault related to the attack.

Metro Vancouver Transit Police say the suspect had threatened someone at a bus stop before allegedly attacking a different person after boarding. Police say there was an “altercation” between two men on board the bus. According to transit police, the struggle happened near the back doors of the bus, and the driver heard what was happening and pulled over. Approximately 20 people were on board at the time.

“During that altercation, one of the men allegedly took out a knife and slashed the other male’s throat,” said Const. Amanda Steed. Police said the victim was able to push the suspect out the back doors of the bus after being slashed.

The victim was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries but is expected to make a full recovery. Transit Police told CBC News that a nurse at the hospital told them the victim only survived because the knife used in the attack was dull.

Kawam also allegedly assaulted another victim before the slashing. According to Steed, he approached the victim at the bus stop on Fraser Highway and 152 Street and “brandished the knife, holding it to the victim’s throat.” That person was able to push the assailant away and escape unharmed.

Metro Vancouver Transit Police say they discovered during their investigation that the suspect made several concerning comments, leading investigators to notify the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team. The enforcement team consulted with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada on the terrorism charges.

Attacks in public places, bringing terror to the spaces people pass through every day, while others happen behind the closed doors of a home. Some are motivated by personal grievances, while others are terrifyingly random. Some capture widespread attention, while others are barely noticed outside the local area. There is no consensus on what constitutes a terrorist attack.

On March 27 in Nashville, a heavily armed assailant shot and killed three children and three adults at a private Christian elementary school. The shooter, who the authorities said was a former student at the school, was shot and killed by the police. On February 17, a 52-year-old man went on a shooting rampage at multiple locations in rural Mississippi, killing six people, including his ex-wife and two siblings who were both in their 70s, the authorities said. No terrorism charges where laid in both cases.

Last year, Payton Gendron accused of killing 10 Black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket was indicted by a grand jury on a state domestic terrorism and hate crime charge that would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Frank R James who has shot 20 people at the Brooklyn Subway has been charged with terrorism charges.

Until recently, if an attacker is considered Muslim, they are assumed to be terrorists. More recently, the attacker would have to have ideological purpose are considered terrorists. Nathaniel Veltman who killed a Muslim family in London Ontario was charged with terrorism, however, Alexandre Bissonnette who shot six praying in Mosque in Quebec City was not charged with any hate crime or terrorism.

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