Man arrested over chemical threat in Canada

2015-01-22 00:50


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Ottawa - Police arrested an American biochemistry professor at an Ottawa hotel on Wednesday over an alleged chemical threat that prompted authorities to evacuate the building, police and media reported.

"We apprehended a male at the Chimo hotel without incident," a police spokesperson told AFP.

"He is being held on a Canada-wide warrant issued relating to charges in Nova Scotia province."

Earlier, police evacuated the hotel and brought in hazmat and tactical squads, after reportedly receiving a tip from the man's wife that he had travelled from Halifax to Ottawa in a van packed with dangerous chemicals.

The man's vehicle has also been located, police confirmed.

Local media identified the suspect as American national Christopher Phillips, and said he is a professor at a university in Halifax where he lives with his family.

They also said he was once a biochemical weapons expert for the US military.

Ottawa police Constable Chuck Benoit told reporters a police negotiator contacted the suspect at the hotel at around 09:00 local time.

He exited his sixth floor room and was arrested on an outstanding warrant. It was "a very simple arrest", Benoit said.

Federal police in Halifax, meanwhile, cordoned off sections of the port city, which is home to the Canadian navy's Atlantic fleet, after discovering what an RCMP officer described as a "large quantity of chemicals" inside a cottage.

"The chemicals are of a nature that we need to employ a chemist to help us identify what type of chemicals that they are," said RCMP Corporal Greg Church.

A call about a suspicious package late on Monday at another location subsequently secured by police in Halifax kicked off the investigation, he said.

Ottawa police Staff Sergeant John McGetrick at a briefing in the capital, said the chemicals are believed to be a "very dangerous substance".

He would not confirm if any had been found in Ottawa, but a hazmat team remained at the hotel throughout the day.

He said it is not clear what the suspect intended to do with the chemicals, but added there was "no information received at this point that there was any terrorist intentions."

Formal charges were expected to be laid and announced later.

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