COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Somali-born student who carried out a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University complained on his Facebook account about U.S. interference in countries with Muslim communities, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan warned about Muslims he described as belonging to “a sleeper cell, waiting for a signal.”
He said that if the U.S. wanted “Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks, then make peace with ‘dawla in al sham,'” a term for the Islamic State group, according to the law enforcement official, who was briefed on the investigation but wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Artan specifically protested the killing of Muslims in Burma, where a U.N. official last week said a Muslim minority group was suffering violence tantamount to ethnic cleansing at the state’s hands.
Investigators are looking into whether the attack that injured 11 people Monday was an act of terror. Dozens of FBI agents began searching Artan’s apartment.
Artan drove a car up onto a sidewalk and plowed his car 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. Four remained hospitalized Tuesday.
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 U.S. government 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.
Classes at the 60,000-student university 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.
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 self-radicalized.
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.”
In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages car-and-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 prayer services 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.