By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
The media arm of the Islamic State claimed Tuesday that the Ohio State student who crashed a car into campus crowd and then lashed out with a butcher knife was a “soldier” of the terror group who heeded appeals to strike the U.S., and its allies.
The claim issued by Amaq news agency makes no suggestion that the assailant, Abdul Razak Artan, had been in direct contact with the group or was formally affiliated with the organization, according to a transcript of the report provided by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical organizations.
(It’s not uncommon for ISIS to try to claim responsibility for an attack — even if the suspect isn’t actually connected to the group. Courtesy of Newsy and YouTube)
“The executor of the attack in the American state of Ohio is a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries,” according to a translation of the Amaq report provided by SITE.
A federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly said it was not uncommon for the group to seek credit for such strikes, but investigators had so far found no immediate evidence to indicate that attack had been directed by the group or that Artan had been in direct contact with terror operatives.
(Learn More, courtesy of WCPO.com and YouTube)
The nation’s third-largest university resumed its regular class schedule Tuesday, while federal and local authorities continued to seek a motive for the assault.
Artan on Monday used a car to mow down a group of students and teachers. He then left the vehicle wielding a butcher knife, slashing at students before he was fatally shot by a police officer.
Investigators were sorting through recent communications linked to Artan, including an angry screed posted to Facebook shortly before the assault in which the logistics management student said he was “sick and tired’’ of seeing Muslims persecuted, said the federal law enforcement official.
In an August interview with OSU’s student newspaper, The Lantern, Artan talked of being overwhelmed and “scared” as a devout Muslim who sought a private place to engage in daily prayer on the sprawling campus.
“This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray,” he said. “I wanted to pray in the open, but I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim; it’s not what the media portrays me to be.”
“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen.”
At least three electronic devices used by the 18-year-old Somali refugee had been seized for analysis, including a cell phone, the official said.
Postings before Monday’s attack, which left 11 injured, referenced al-Qaeda planner and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, whose sermons calling for violence against the West continue to provide inspiration to aspiring jihadists five years after he was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
The official, however, described the postings as drawing from various extremist ideologies and groups, not uncommon to others who have been radicalized online.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee who received an initial briefing on the attack, said it bore “all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized.”
“The fight against (the Islamic State), al-Qaeda and other terror organizations and their global incitement to radicalism, must be carried out on battlefields far away, and by confronting online propaganda here at home,” Schiff said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stopped short of calling the incident an act of terrorism, noting that the investigation is still underway.
“There are a couple of things, though, that we know,” he said. “There is plenty of available evidence to suggest that this individual may have been motivated by extremism.”
But he cautioned against generalizations about the religious background of the attacker. “If we increase our suspicion of people who practice a particular religion, we’re more likely to contribute to acts of violence than we are to prevent them,” he said.
(OSU professor William Clark, who was struck by the attacker’s car, also spoke to reporters Tuesday. Courtesy of the Associated Press and YouTube)
He said the impact “flipped” him into the air, sending him crashing to the pavement.
He then saw the attacker, who said nothing, leave his car before hearing the three gunshots fired by a police officer that ultimately felled Artan.
Contributing: Gregory Korte