A man appeared in a Toronto court Tuesday to face nine charges, including three counts of attempted murder, related to Monday’s stabbing at a local military recruitment centre.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Tuesday that the suspect had told employees at the recruitment centre that "Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people.”

Ayanle Hassan Ali, 27, faces nine charges in total, including three counts of attempted murder and assault with a weapon, against Jesus Castillo, Tracy Ann Gerhardt and Ryan Kong.

He also faces charges of aggravated assault against Castillo and Kong, plus one charge of carrying a weapon “for a purpose dangerous to the public peace.”

In the hours following Monday’s incident, the Toronto police chief told the media that police were looking at terrorism as a possible motive in the case.

Ali appeared in court Tuesday afternoon wearing a white jump suit, his head down and eyes locked on the floor.

Defence attorney David Burke told reporters outside the courthouse that the case had been put over to Friday, when there will be a “potential bail hearing.”

“This gentleman is not going to be let out on bail for anything but the best of plans,” Burke said.

Burke told reporters his client “seems alright” but is “obviously very, very upset and you can imagine he’s probably pretty scared.”

Burke said he would not speculate about whether his client has mental health issues.

He also refused to comment on what Ali does for work or whether he is religious.

“I’m not getting into whether he’s remorseful or anything,” he added.

Police sources told CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry that Ali lived with his sister and mother in a west end Toronto Community Housing unit.

One source said Ali attended university, but did not graduate.

Neighbours described him a kind and quiet, with one saying he would go to a local mosque to help his community and then come straight home.

‘Remain vigilant’

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale later told reporters he had discussed the situation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who told him that Canadian Forces members are expected to “remain vigilant but not be intimidated.”

Trudeau addressed the incident earlier on Tuesday on Twitter, writing that "Canadians – and the Canadian Forces – will not be intimidated by terror and hate.”

Goodale said the prime minister was pleased to hear the victims had been released from hospital. He also thanked those who “helped obviously to prevent further injuries.”

The minister said the investigation is being led by Toronto Police with assistance from the RCMP and CSIS, and that any further charges will be determined by the police.

“Canada is fundamentally a safe country,” Goodale said. “Our police and intelligence agencies have the ability and capacity to investigate this matter appropriately and thoroughly.”

Goodale said the incident “brings back some pretty terrible memories and I’m sure all Canadians shared a sense of concern and apprehension about what was transpiring.”

Possible ‘lone-wolf attack’

Goodale said “the initial investigation appeared to indicate this was singular, lone-wolf type of behaviour, but the full investigation is not yet complete.”

He added that “lone-wolf behaviour, perhaps inspired by a kind of copycat mentality, is very difficult to deal with,” and that his government will ramp up counter-radicalization efforts to try and prevent similar acts.

“You have to go at the roots of it, which is identifying where there are vulnerabilities… trying to intervene with the right resources, in the right way, at the right time, in advance to be effective at prevention,” he said.

Goodale asked Canadians to “remain vigilant and careful” and “be alert about their own individual circumstances.” He said they should notify local authorities or call the national RCMP information line “if they detect any kind of behaviour in their communities that they deem to be … suspicious.”

When asked whether the government considers what transpired a terrorist act, Goodale said that “the investigation is ongoing and we, the police and the investigative authorities, will determine the facts as they unfold.”

Former RCMP Commissioner Norm Inkster said he expects the RCMP and CSIS will determine that this was “not an act of terrorism but rather a deranged individual acting alone.”

Ambrose calls it terrorism

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday that she does consider the stabbings a lone-wolf terrorist attack.

“The legal definition under the Criminal Code of terrorism is an act that is motivated by political, ideological or religious intent and the intention of the attack is to intimidate the public, and I think that’s exactly what this,” she said.

“I think the bigger issue here is this is the third time in 18 months that a Canadian forces member has been attacked, that we’ve seen a terror related attack on Canadian soil,” she added.

Ambrose questioned whether Prime Minister Trudeau is taking the issue seriously enough, considering how long he took to address the attack on Twitter.

The leader also demanded more transparency from the government on what is being done to protect Canadians, after CSIS reported that 60 individuals suspected of terrorist-related activities overseas have returned to Canada.

Ambrose also implored Trudeau to not follow through on his commitments to repeal and replace the Anti-Terrorism Act, known as C-51, because she said it gives the security establishment “tools to disrupt this kind of activity.”

“Mr. Trudeau made a commitment in the election to take that tool away,” she said. “CSIS said they’re using it judiciously but effectively, and they’ve used it to actually disrupt 12 different terrorist related activities, so I’m concerned about how seriously he takes this issue.”

Suspect referenced Allah

In the hours following Monday’s incident, the Toronto police chief told the media that police were looking at terrorism as a possible motive in the case.

Saunders said at a press conference Tuesday morning that recruiting centre staff reported the suspect had said: "Allah told me to do this, Allah told me to come here and kill people.”

"One thing that I'm going to be very, very careful of when it comes to the national security piece (is) that we don't go through that Islamophobia nonsense," Saunders added.

Saunders said that Ali was born in Montreal, but has lived in Toronto for the last five years.

He said there was nothing to indicate other people or organizations were involved in the attack

The police chief said the man entered the recruitment centre at 4900 Yonge St., near Sheppard Avenue, at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Monday.

A master corporal who was sitting at a front desk in uniform said he noticed the man carrying a "large knife," and called out to him, but was ignored. The man approached the suspect, who slashed him on the upper arm. The man then continued into the recruitment office, Saunders said.

A group of Canadian Forces members then subdued the suspect, and another member was stabbed during the process, Saunders added.

The injured parties were treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, he said.

The suspect was brought to a hospital because he appeared to be "non-responsive," Saunders said, explaining that he was conscious, but not answering questions.

Eyewitness account

Canadian Forces Capt. Jean-Michel Gidlow said he witnessed some of the attack.

“He started using his fists and then there was the obvious large blade that he was using to attack the soldier at the front,” he said.

He added that a number of soldiers rushed out of their offices to help the first person being attacked and then a second soldier was injured.

“There was a lot of soldiers doing a lot of good work and putting themselves in harm’s way in order to ensure that the civilians … were taken care of,” Gidlow said.

‘Business as usual’

Maj. Richard Silva said employees at the recruitment centre have returned to work.

"It's business as usual, although we do remain vigilant," he said.

Minister Goodale said at his press conference that the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff have discussed the matter and “will be taking whatever steps they deem appropriate.”

“At the moment they have not changed any of the protocols… but clearly when an event like this happens you re-examine every step, every circumstance, every procedure.”

Goodale was also asked why Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had not yet commented on the attack. The minister said Sajjan is in Europe.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, issued a statement Tuesday commending staff members at the recruitment centre for “their courage in the face of adversity” after “effectively neutralizing the threat.”

“While investigative authorities continue their work in this very important matter, the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to adapt Force Protection measures to ensure the ongoing safety of our personnel across Canada,” Vance said.

“As usual, we will not discuss the specifics of these measures,” he added. “However, under current circumstances, our men and women will continue to proudly wear their uniforms in public.”

Muslim leader condemns attack

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada said it "categorically condemns" the attack in Toronto.

The group, which represents some members of the Canadian Muslim community, called the attack "appalling" and "utterly disgraceful."

"We denounce any attempt to justify the killing of innocent lives, and we stand committed to restoring peace," President Lal Khan Malik wrote in the statement.