Accessibility links


Stabbing Suspect Caught Trying to Leave US for Israel

U.S. officials have arrested a suspect in a string of 20 stabbings - including five murders - across three states, taking him into custody as he tried to board a flight to Tel Aviv.

Law enforcement officials on Thursday identified the man as 33-year-old Israeli Arab Elias Abuelazam. They said he was arrested late Wednesday at the international airport in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia.

He is wanted in connection with a series of stabbings that began in the central U.S. state of Michigan in May, and later attacks in the eastern U.S. state of Virginia and the central state of Ohio.

Michigan's Genessee County Prosecutor David Leyton discusses the case:

Federal investigators said Abuelazam's fingerprints match those of the suspect in assaults in Michigan and Virginia. Local police said they also have evidence placing him in Virginia at the time of the attacks.

Authorities alleged he would approach his victims - most of whom were black - and ask for some sort of help before stabbing them and speeding away in his vehicle.

The police chief of Leesburg, Virginia, where three of the stabbings occurred, said he believes the attacks were racially motivated.

Abuelazam is being held in Atlanta for additional questions. So far, officials have charged him with assault in connection to an attack in Michigan while they continue to gather additional evidence, but Virginia state prosecutor James Plowman told reporters Thursday that he believes the person responsible for the stabbings has been caught.

The prosecutor also said Abuelazam had been charged with assault in connection with a 2008 case and was scheduled to appear in court next week.

U.S. officials say Abuelazam was in the United States legally. Israeli media say he was traveling on an expired Israeli passport.

Media outlets in Michigan say Abuelazam briefly worked at a liquor store in the city of Flint.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.