TORONTO - Police hope a laptop will provide quick clues into the life of Ayanle Hassan Ali.
Police agencies know Ali once worked close to passenger jets at Pearson International Airport as a groundskeeper, but what they consider a priority right now is tracking his most recent movements before he allegedly tried to kill three Canadian Armed Forces soldiers with a knife at a recruitment centre in North York on Monday.
“We want to determine not only where he has been, but who was he with and who influenced him,” a police source said.
Still, many people felt the hair on the back of their neck stand when news of Ali’s former airport job broke Wednesday.
“Mr. Ayanle Hassan Ali is not an employee of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) nor does he currently work at Toronto Pearson,” spokesman Siobhan Desroches assured my colleague Maryam Shah. “Mr. Ali worked for a third party tenant at Toronto Pearson and possessed a Restricted Area Identification Card (RAIC) from December 2008 to March 2009.”
So this computer police removed from his Albion Rd. apartment is their quickest ticket into his world.
“The computer is already being analysed and information shared amongst Toronto Police, the RCMP, OPP and CSIS,” a source said.
Every e-mail will be scrutinized. Every Google search and website, too.
“His whole life will be looked up and down,” a police source said. “Everybody he met or communicated with will be looked at, and his travels.”
The nice thing about having the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) working on this, an officer said, is there’s no red tape to ask officers in Calgary to talk to people Ali knew while attending the University of Calgary, or in Edmonton, where his cousin tells media he started talking about conspiracy theories and religion.
Or in Montreal, where police are looking for potential contacts.
“Who did he hang out with or who did he want to hang out with?” a police source said.
They also want to understand his movements on Monday. Where did he go? Did he visit another office in the federal building?
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has asked people with information to contact police directly or Crime Stoppers anonymously.
Meanwhile, it’s been interesting to watch some rush out the mental-heath diagnoses as if it offers some sort of explanation or softens the blow of what happened. This approach doesn’t seem to consider — even if there were mental-health problems at play — whether a mentor could have been taking advantage of that.
It’s difficult to describe an attack against uniformed soldiers on Canadian soil — allegedly committed by someone who shouted that Allah made him do it — as something other than an act of terrorism.
But for police, all of that rhetoric is on mute. They’ll go where the evidence goes.
And that’s going to be interesting because Ayanle Hassan Ali seems to be different things to different people. Some have described the 27-year-old as withdrawn, but neighbour Haaruun Muddei, 12, tells the Sun’s Jenny Yuen he’s “a nice person” who “would always go out (of his way) for others.”
“If you’re cold in the street and you don’t have a jacket or anything, he would take off his jacket and put it on you,” Muddei said. “He did that (for) me once when I was cold.”
Stabber? Terrorist? Someone in need of medication?
In the interest of national security, police are working together to determine just who is Ayanle Hassan Ali and what drove him to allegedly try to kill Canadian troops.