ISIS calls Ohio St. attacker 'soldier'
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The official news agency of the Islamic State labeled the Ohio State student who smashed his car into a crowd and then slashed at people with a butcher knife a “soldier” of the militant group, according to an organization that monitors extremists.
This posting does not necessarily mean that Abdul Razak Ali Artan acted at the behest of the terror group, which often claims responsibility for attacks in which it had no actual involvement, said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group. Katz said that Amaq's claim suggested that Artan did not coordinate with the group, but that it had spent time looking at news reports to determine his motivation.
The bloodshed in Columbus on Monday occurred after the Islamic State issued instructions this month about carrying out attacks using knives and vehicles, Katz said. And as long as these instructions are online, similar attacks are likely to continue, she said.
On Tuesday, the Amaq News Agency, which is linked to the Islamic State, also said that the attack was carried out in response to the group's “calls to target citizens,” the same language used when the group claimed credit for the Minnesota mall stabbings in September.
After the deadly attacks in Paris last year, detailed news releases with video recordings and photos were quickly sent out. It took two days for Amaq to claim credit for the attack in San Bernardino, Calif., last year, saying that “supporters of the Islamic State” had carried out the mass killing. In September, it took a day for Amaq to claim that the attacker who stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall was a “soldier” of the group.
Authorities have not established a motive in the attack. But the law enforcement investigation increasingly is focusing on the possibility that Artan was motivated by radical or terrorist influences, though he had no actual contacts with the Islamic State or other overseas terror groups, a U.S. official said.
FBI investigators are working jointly with local authorities and are keenly interested in a Facebook post — believed to be from Artan — that talks of abuses against Muslims and the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. FBI spokesmen declined to comment on the Islamic State's claim that Artan was a “soldier” of the group. An FBI spokesman said Artan was unknown to the bureau before Monday.
A U.S. official said Artan came to the U.S. from Somalia as a refugee in 2014, and stayed at least for a time in the Dallas area before moving to Columbus. He was a community college student in Columbus from 2014 to 2016 and transferred as a junior to Ohio State this semester.