A Walk on the “New Dark Side” of Windsor, Ontario

Why did Habibullah Ahmad, 21, try to kill Anne Widholm, 75?

On Sunday, October 8, Anne Widholm took a stroll on the Ganatchio trail in Windsor, Ontario. The 75-year-old grandmother liked to enjoy the outdoors but that day her walk would be cut short. Police are charging that Habibullah Ahmad, 21, attacked Widholm and left her unconscious, bleeding and near death on the trail.

As neurosurgeon Dr. Balraj Jhawar told reporters,  the victim’s lacerated scalp, bruised face and fractured neck vertebrae were “among the most brutal things I’ve seen in my career.”  The 75-year-old had suffered, “the worst skull fractures I’ve seen in my 12 years here in Windsor.”

Friends of Anne Widholm told how she would pick up litter on the trail as she walked along. “This is a super good person,” Dr. Jhawar told reporters. “This is the calibre of woman we’re talking about here.” 

“We love Anne and her husband. They are dear members of our church,” Riverside Baptist Church pastor Brandon Taylor said in a statement. “Anne led a women’s Bible study each week and was planning on teaching the women’s Sunday school class in just a few weeks.” On the other hand, news reports were short on information about the man who attacked this super good person.

Locals learned that “Windsor man” Habibullah Ahmad is 21 years old and goes by the first name “Daniel.” He was apparently turned in by a companion, 17, who was not named.

Police initially brought one count of aggravated assault against Ahmad but later changed the charge to attempted murder. The alleged attacker was denied bail and remains in custody but beyond that the police seemed to be holding back.

At 21, Habibullah Ahmad is not a minor, so there was no legal obstacle to release of information, including his booking photo. As of this writing, no photo of Habibullah Ahmad has appeared and he remains something of a mystery.

Locals might wonder if Habibullah Ahmad has always been a “Windsor man,” and where he came from. Windsorites could be forgiven for wondering if Habibullah Ahmad might be an unvetted refugee who had been booted out of the USA. That was the case with Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, the Somalian who recently mounted vehicle and knife attacks in Edmonton, targeting police officer Mike Chernyk.  

Local and national news stories contained no statements from Habibullah Ahmad, nor any indication that he had declined an interview. Likewise, news reports contained no quotes from Habibullah Ahmad’s family, friends, neighbors or co-workers, so locals might wonder what this guy does for a living. Could he perhaps be a student?

Windsorites might recall Sudanese refugee Jonathan Nicola, who stood six-foot-nine and played basketball for Central High School. He said he was 17 but he was really 29, and immigration officials failed to notice. The vetting is not very thorough, but no word whether Habibullah Ahmad might have slipped through in similar fashion.

Habibullah Ahmad is a male adult and his victim was an elderly woman, but feminists did not decry the attack as an example of violence against women.  Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has often spoken out on bullying, offered no statement on the case.

Habibullah Ahmad had the means and opportunity to attack Anne Widholm, but that left the key question of motive. The charge was not robbery or sexual assault but attempted murder. The attacker was obviously a violent predator but the facts of the case seemed to exclude gang or drug activity. So why had Habibullah Ahmad attempted to kill Anne Widholm as she walked the Ganatchio trail that Sunday morning?

Given the severity of the attack, locals could be forgiven for wondering if Habibullah Ahmad is a radical Muslim and targeted Anne Widholm, a Christian, on a day of Christian worship. By all appearances, no official or reporter dared to pose that pertinent question.

Police said the attack “appears to be random in nature,” but Dr. Jhawar, who conducted eight hours of surgery to keep Anne Widholm alive, found that “absolutely unacceptable.”

“For all of us who live here in Windsor, we can’t tolerate this,” the neurosurgeon told reporters. “This is not just another assault… . This is maybe representing a new, dark side of Windsor that we can’t let propagate.”

If this new dark side of Windsor is not to propagate, locals should know what, exactly, it is. If the dark side does involve radical Islam, this would not be its first appearance in the border city. In 2015, Windsor’s Arabic-language newspaper Al Forqan called knife attacks on Jews in Israel a “sacred duty of jihad.”

When this writer was growing up in Windsor, nobody ever said killing Jews was a sacred duty, and nobody ever tried to kill a 75-year-old grandmother out on her Sunday stroll.

At this writing, Anne Widholm is still alive but as Dr. Balraj explained, she is “not out of the woods yet,” and “anything can happen.”