US & Canada

Israeli man held at airport over US serial stabbings

Elias Abuelazam
Image caption Police say Elias Abuelazam's fingerprints match prints taken from Virginia and Michigan

US police have arrested a man in connection with a series of stabbings that left five dead in three states.

Police say Elias Abuelazam has ties to the towns of Flint, Michigan and Leesburg, Virginia, where nearly 20 attacks have taken place.

He was stopped at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport as he tried to board a flight to Israel.

Mr Abuelazam is an Israeli citizen and permanent US resident, a Michigan official told the Associated Press.

At a news conference on Thursday, Virginia police said they had been notified at 2130 local time on Wednesday that the suspect was attempting to leave the country by plane.

They co-ordinated with Atlanta police to have him stopped at the airport, police said.

Atlanta police said they had paged Mr Abuelazam at the airport as he waited to board a Delta Air Lines flight to Tel Aviv.

Passengers later said Mr Abuelazam appeared tense and was stopped at the boarding gate, before being led away without incident by six officers.

Chain of attacks

Virginia police said they were confident they could place Mr Abuelazam in their area at the time of the attacks there.

They said his fingerprints matched prints from the assaults in both Virginia and Michigan.

On Thursday, a judge in Flint had signed a warrant charging Mr Abuelazam with assault with intent to commit murder in connection with a stabbing on 27 July.

The victim of that attack, Antwoine Marshall, told Associated Press he had identified the attacker from a picture shown to him by the FBI early on Thursday.

Police say the chain of attacks began on 24 May.

Their investigations were focused on Flint, where 16 attacks took place, until police in Leesburg reported three attacks.

Police in Toledo, Ohio, then reported a stabbing on Saturday that appeared to be connected to the others.

Investigators say the attacks follow a similar pattern - the attacker approaches mainly black men at night in urban areas, asks for directions or help with a broken-down car, and then stabs the victims with a knife.

The stabbings have occurred on average about once every four days since the end of May.

Because the victims have mostly been black, police suspect the attacks may have been racially motivated.

Mr Abuelazam is an Israeli citizen and permanent US resident.

He reportedly grew up in a Christian Arab community in Ramla, in central Israel.