Islamic State claims militant ‘soldier’ behind Ohio University attack

A Somali student was shot dead on Monday by the police, moments after he drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians on the campus in Columbus, Ohio, and attacked them with a butcher knife.

world Updated: Nov 30, 2016 12:44 IST
Islamic State,Ohio,Ohio State University
Community members gather for an event at St John Arena in Columbus, Ohio a day after an Ohio State University student drove his car into pedestrians and slashed people with a butcher knife at the school. (NYT photo)

The Somali student who wounded 11 people in a car-ramming and knife attack on an Ohio university campus was a “soldier” of the Islamic State group, a militant-linked news agency said.

The Amaq agency said the rampage by Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a logistics student at Ohio State University, was the result of Islamic State calls to action.

“He carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries,” the agency quoted an insider source as saying, according to a translation by the SITE group which monitors extremists.

Artan was shot dead on Monday by the police, moments after he drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians on the campus in Columbus, Ohio, and attacked them with a butcher knife.

Emerging details about Artan have led authorities to believe that he was inspired by militant propaganda.

Artan’s family arrived in the United States from Somalia via Pakistan in 2014. In an interview a few months ago with student newspaper The Lantern, Artan had complained of the lack of Muslim prayer rooms on campus.

“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they are going to think, what’s going to happen,” he had said.

United States media reported that a Facebook page thought to belong to him -- since taken offline -- included grievances against the United States.

“I can’t take it any more. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” a post quoted by ABC television said, using a term referring to the global community of Muslims.

“If you want us Muslims to stop carrying (out) lone wolf attacks, then make peace,” the post reads. “We will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims.”

Artan also referred to Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Al-Qaeda cleric killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, as a hero in the posting.

University ‘changed’ by tragedy

Classes at the university resumed on Tuesday, with all but three of the 11 injured discharged from hospital, according to Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“Everyone still continues to be healing, obviously, working through the trauma of yesterday’s events,” Thomas said.

The university planned an evening gathering at a campus sports arena to help students and staff deal with the aftermath of the attack.

“Time will help, but I think in some ways the entire university will be changed by this,” Thomas said.

One of the injured William Clark, an emeritus professor at the university, said he was struck by Artan’s car and flipped in the air. “It all happened so fast,” Clark said, holding back tears when speaking of police officer Alan Horujko, who responded to the scene and quickly shot dead Artan, halting his attack.

“If he was here, I would put my arm around him, and tell him he has got a lot to cope with in the days to come,” Clark said. “He has got to live with this the rest of his life, but he did the right thing.”

Clark also said he wanted to withhold judgment of his attacker until the investigation revealed more about what drove him to commit the rampage.

“Yes, he was from Somalia, but he is an OSU student,” Clark said. “And, having been a faculty member for 35 years, I am only too aware of the things that drive students sometimes to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”

Ohio is home to the second largest Somali community in the United States, numbering around 38,000 in the Columbus area alone, according to the state’s Somali community association.

The country’s largest Somali community, in Minnesota, was rocked when one of its members stabbed 10 people at a mall in September. IS later claimed the attacker was a militant “soldier,” the same claim as for Artan.

First Published: Nov 30, 2016 12:43 IST