Of­fi­cial: At­tacker an­gry about treat­ment of Mus­lims

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Julie Carr Smyth and An­drew Welsh-Huggins

COLUM­BUS, OHIO >> The So­mali-born stu­dent who went on a car-and-knife ram­page at Ohio State Univer­sity railed on Face­book against U.S. in­ter­fer­ence in Mus­lim lands and warned, “If you want us Mus­lims to stop car­ry­ing lone wolf attacks, then make peace” with the Is­lamic State group, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said Tues­day.

The posts from Ab­dul Razak Ali Ar­tan’s ac­count came to light af­ter Mon­day’s vi­o­lence, which left 11 peo­ple in­jured. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into whether it was a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

“Amer­ica! Stop in­ter­fer­ing with other coun­tries, es­pe­cially the Mus­lim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, re­mem­ber that,” he wrote, us­ing the Ara­bic term for the world’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

The posts were re­counted by a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial who was briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion but wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it pub­licly and spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity.

“Ev­ery sin­gle Mus­lim who dis­ap­proves of my ac­tions is a sleeper cell, wait­ing for a sig­nal. I am warn­ing you Oh Amer­ica!” Ar­tan also wrote.

Dozens of FBI agents be­gan search­ing Ar­tan’s apart­ment for clues to what set off the ram­page.

Ar­tan drove a car up onto a side­walk and plowed into a group of pedes­tri­ans shortly be­fore 10 a.m. He then got out and be­gan stab­bing peo­ple with a butcher knife be­fore he was shot to death by a cam­pus police of­fi­cer.

Most of the vic­tims were hurt by the car, and two had been stabbed, of­fi­cials said. One had a frac­tured skull. Three re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized Tues­day.

Engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Clark, who un­der­went surgery for deep cuts on his leg, re­called at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day being hit by the car from be­hind and being thrown through the air.

“When the car hit me, I re­ally didn’t know what to think,” he said, adding he next heard screams from stu­dents. “That’s when I fig­ured out it was more than a car ac­ci­dent.”

On Tues­day, a self-de­scribed Is­lamic State news agency called Ar­tan “a sol­dier of the Is­lamic State” who “car­ried out the op­er­a­tion in re­sponse to calls to tar­get cit­i­zens of in­ter­na­tional coali­tion coun­tries.”

The Is­lamic State has pre­vi­ously de­scribed other at­tack­ers around the world as its “sol­diers” with­out specif­i­cally claim­ing to have or­ches­trated the acts of vi­o­lence.

Ar­tan was born in So­ma­lia and was a le­gal per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

A law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said Ar­tan came to the United States in 2014 as the child of a refugee. He had been liv­ing in Pak­istan from 2007 to 2014. It is not un­com­mon for refugees to go to a third-party coun­try be­fore being per­ma­nently re­set­tled.

Upon ar­riv­ing in the U.S., Ar­tan was re­ferred for a se­condary Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion in­spec­tion, but noth­ing ab­nor­mal was found, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. of­fi­cial who was briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion but was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. A se­condary in­spec­tion is of­ten rou­tine and based on some­one’s travel his­tory and length of stay in cer­tain coun­tries.

Ar­tan started col­lege that fall and grad­u­ated with honors from Colum­bus State Com­mu­nity Col­lege last May, earn­ing an associate of arts de­gree. A video of his grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony shows him jump­ing and spin­ning on stage and smil­ing broadly, draw­ing laughs, cheers and smiles from grad­u­ates and fac­ulty mem­bers.

Classes for the 60,000 stu­dents at Ohio State, where Ar­tan be­gan tak­ing classes this fall, were can­celed af­ter the at­tack but re­sumed Tues­day. The school planned a vigil for Tues­day night.

Stu­dents said they were ner­vous about re­turn­ing and planned to take pre­cau­tions such as not walk­ing alone.

“It’s kind of nerve-wrack­ing go­ing back to class right af­ter it,” said Kaitlin Con­ner, 18, of Cleve­land, who said she had a midterm exam to take.

Ohio State’s stu­dent news­pa­per, The Lan­tern, ran an in­ter­view in Au­gust with an Ar­tan in which he crit­i­cized the me­dia’s por­trayal of Mus­lims and ex­pressed con­cern about how he would be re­ceived on cam­pus.

“I was kind of scared with ev­ery­thing go­ing on in the me­dia. I’m a Mus­lim, it’s not what me­dia por­trays me to be,” he told the news­pa­per. “If peo­ple look at me, a Mus­lim pray­ing, I don’t know what they’re go­ing to think, what’s go­ing to hap­pen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the me­dia that put that pic­ture in their heads.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said the act bore the hall­marks of an at­tack car­ried out by some­one who may have been sel­f­rad­i­cal­ized. In re­cent months, fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have raised con­cerns about on­line ex­trem­ist pro­pa­ganda that en­cour­ages car or knife attacks, which are eas­ier to pull off than bomb­ings. The Is­lamic State group has urged sym­pa­thiz­ers on­line to carry out lone-wolf attacks in their home coun­tries with what­ever weapons are avail­able.

Ar­tan was not known to the FBI be­fore Mon­day’s at­tack, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Neigh­bors said he was al­ways po­lite and at­tended daily prayers at a mosque on the city’s west side.

Leaders of Mus­lim or­ga­ni­za­tions and mosques in the Colum­bus area con­demned the attacks while cau­tion­ing peo­ple against jump­ing to con­clu­sions or blam­ing a re­li­gion or an eth­nic group.

Sur­veil­lance pho­tos showed Ar­tan in the car by him­self just be­fore the at­tack, but in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into whether any­one else was in­volved, police said.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This Au­gust 2016 image pro­vided by TheLan­tern.com shows Ab­dul Razak Ali Ar­tan in Colum­bus, Ohio.

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