Elias Abuelazam
Elias Abuelazam, suspected of involvement in a string of stabbings in the U.S. that left five dead. Photo by AP
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The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested an Israeli early yesterday morning who is suspected of being a serial killer.

Elias Abuelazam, 33, is suspected of attacking at least 20 people with a knife over the past two weeks, killing five of them. The suspect, who grew up in Ramle and emigrated to the United States, was arrested at the Atlanta airport after boarding an aircraft scheduled to take off for Israel.

Over the past two weeks, the U.S. media have reported some 20 brutal attacks involving knife and hammer blows. The attacks took place in three different states, and police investigators suspect that they were racially motivated.

Evidence received by the Virginia State Police over the last few days led police investigators and FBI agents to the suspect, who was placed under arrest minutes before the aircraft was scheduled to depart.

Passengers sitting on the flight yesterday said there was no ruckus when Abuelazam was removed from the aircraft.

"He sat next to me and did not talk - he did not oppose the police," one of the passengers told Channel 10 News.

Another passenger said that "there were about six officers, and they just came and said his name."

The Virginia police said they still need to verify some of the information they received before they can conclusively state that they have arrested the serial killer, but they already have some evidence linking Abuelazam to every one of the attacks.

The suspect worked at a liquor store in Flint, Michigan, a town that has been in decline for the past two decades due to the crisis in the American automobile industry. Police believe that Abuelazam began his attacks there, by knifing a youth in the back as he was jogging. Two days later, a 67-year-old man was stabbed while sitting outside his home, not far from the site of the first attack.

The third incident occurred a day later, when the suspect asked a man to give him a ride, claiming his car had broken down. After the man agreed, the suspect allegedly hit him in the head with a hammer.

Seventeen more attacks ensued, the latest on Saturday, when a man was stabbed at the entrance of a church in Ohio. The FBI investigated the attacks and concluded, based on the similarities they displayed, that the assailant was a serial killer.

One characteristic of the attacks was that most of the victims were either African Americans or Hispanics.

Joseph Price, the police chief of Leesburg, Virginia, said investigators believe the motive for the attacks was "pure hatred," even though the surviving victims said the attacker did not abuse them verbally or say anything that hinted at a racial motivation.