A Somali immigrant who plowed into pedestrians at Ohio State University and stabbed others with a butcher knife may have followed the same path to self-radicalization as militants in a number of “lone wolf” attacks, US officials said on Tuesday. Investigators were probing the background of Abdul Razak Ali Artan one day after he injured 11 people in the attack on the Columbus campus where he was a student. He was shot to death moments later by a police officer.
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Police have given no motive for the attack. 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 so-called “lone wolf” militants who carried out attacks in the United States, such as the gunman who shot to death 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, and the man who killed four US Marines and a Navy sailor in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last year, the officials said.
The gunman in those two attacks were Muslim, as was Artan, and were killed by police. Investigators were looking into a message believed to have been posted on Facebook by Artan that contained inflammatory statements about being “sick and tired” of seeing Muslims killed and reaching a “boiling point,” a law enforcement source said.
Artan, who was born in Somalia, was a lawful, US permanent resident who arrived in the country in 2014, said a federal official, who also asked not to be identified. Investigators believe Artan may have lived for as long as seven years in Pakistan, said the federal official who also declined to be named because of the ongoing investigation. Somali refugees often spend some time in Pakistan before coming to the United States, another official said.
Even as they probed the Ohio State University rampage as a possible lone wolf attack, investigators were trying to assemble a full picture of Artan’s associates and recent activities, according to federal officials. Artan was 20 years old, Ohio State University Police Chief Craig Stone said. Two people remained hospitalized at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. Two others were at Riverside Methodist Hospital, according to a spokesman. None of the victims have life-threatening injuries, officials said. Seven people have been released.
The attack rattled students at the state’s flagship public university, which had been placed under a campuswide alert as people barricaded themselves in rooms and police with rifles searched for a possible second suspect. Members of Columbus’ Somali community have denounced the attack. Ohio Governor, John Kasich and other officials have praised Ohio State police for quickly reacting to the rampage.