WASHINGTON/COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Somali immigrant who injured 11 people at Ohio State University in a vehicle and stabbing attack before he was shot dead may have followed the same path to self-radicalization as militants in a number of “lone wolf” attacks, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the terrorist attack.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 20, was shot dead by a police officer on Monday moments after he plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians and then leapt out and began stabbing people with a butcher knife.
Investigators were probing the background of Artan, a Muslim who was a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a student at Ohio State.
Police have given no motive for the attack on the Columbus campus.
So far, investigators have found no strong evidence linking Artan to other known militant individuals, cells or groups, said two federal law enforcement officials, who declined to be named because the probe is ongoing.
Artan’s actions fit the pattern of lone-wolf militants who carried out other attacks, such as the gunman who shot to death 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, and the man who killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last year, the officials said.
Those gunmen were also killed by police.
A federal official who asked not to be identified said that while Islamic State has claimed responsibility in other attacks, investigators have seen no evidence so far that the militant group’s role was anything more than inspirational.
Artan spoke of ‘boiling point’
Investigators were looking into a message posted on Facebook by Artan with inflammatory statements about being “sick and tired” of seeing Muslims killed, a law enforcement source said.
“Stop the killing of the Muslims in Burma,” Artan said in the Facebook post.
Violence in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has sent Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border to Bangladesh amid allegations of abuses by security forces.
All of Artan’s Facebook postings have been removed from the social media website.
Artan’s post did not mention Islamic State but it praised Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric linked to al Qaeda who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
In its claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack, the Islamic State news agency AMAQ posted a photo of Artan wearing a blue shirt and sitting with greenery in the background. It described him as a soldier of the group.
Artan, who was born in Somalia, arrived in the United States in 2014, said a federal official, who also asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation.
Members of Columbus’s Somali community have denounced the attack by Artan who, according to Ohio State University Police Chief Craig Stone, was 20 years old.
Investigators believe Artan may have lived as long as seven years in Pakistan, said the federal official. Somali refugees often spend some time in Pakistan before coming to the United States.
More recently, Artan worked at a Home Depot store in Columbus, one of the two U.S. law enforcement officials said.
The attack rattled students at the state’s flagship public university.
One victim remained hospitalized at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer at the facility, said at a news conference. Two others were at Riverside Methodist Hospital. None of the victims have life-threatening injuries.
William Clark, a professor emeritus who was struck by Artan’s car, told reporters shortly after his release from the hospital that he would withhold judgment about Artan until he learns more about what motivated him.
“I’m sore, but I’m going home this afternoon and he’s dead,” Clark said. “My sense is, out of respect for just the living and the dead, that we should wait until we know exactly what the truth is.”
— by Mark Hosenball and Kim Palmer | Reuters