Report: ISIS claims Ohio State attacker was 'soldier of the Islamic State'
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack that injured 11 people at Ohio State University Monday, calling Abdul Razak Ali Artan a "soldier of the Islamic State" in a post by its Amaq News Agency, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
SITE, which monitors jihadist communication online, reported that ISIS declared the attack involving a car and a knife was a result of its "calls to target citizens" in coalition countries.
CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank tweeted that the claim of responsibility is "totally unsubstantiated," cautioning against taking it as concrete evidence of a connection. ISIS has used similar language in the past to take credit for attacks that were believed to be inspired by its propaganda but not directed by the group.
Artan was killed by a responding police officer, but investigators still have his own words to help them determine why he drove a Honda Civic at a crowd and attempted to slash bystanders with a butcher knife. Authorities believe he acted alone and have said they are looking at terrorism as a possible motive.
The 18-year-old Ohio State student was born in Somalia. He moved to Pakistan as a refugee with his family in 2007. In 2014, they came to the U.S. and he became a legal permanent resident.
Artan graduated from Columbus State Community College in May before transferring to Ohio State. WSYX obtained video of him receiving his diploma there.
Neighbors of the Franklin Township home he reportedly shared with his mother and siblings, which was being searched by investigators into the night, told the Columbus Dispatch they were shocked to learn of Artan’s actions.
"I don't know what made him act like that," the owner of a nearby market said of Artan. "He don't drink. He don't smoke. He don't use narcotics. They're very nice people."
The manager of a restaurant where he often ate told the paper he was “a cool guy.”
Louann Carnahan, who lived next door to Artan, told CNN Tuesday that he was “very pleasant” and she is having a hard time believing he carried out this attack.
“I’m just very beside myself and concerned,” she said.
Clearer insight into Artan’s state of mind may be gleaned from an interview with the OSU student newspaper and from what is purported to be a Facebook post he wrote on the morning of the attack.
Speaking to the Lantern for its “Humans of Ohio State” feature in August, he described himself as “scared” to reveal his Muslim faith on campus.
“I’m new here. This is my first day. This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray,” Artan said, adding that he is afraid to pray in public “with everything going on in the media.”
“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen,” he said. “But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable.”
Law enforcement sources told CNN and NBC News that a post on a Facebook page believed to belong to Artan shortly before the attack expressed passionate grievances with treatment of Muslims around the world and threatened to “use a billion infidels in retribution.”
“I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim Brothers and Sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE,” he wrote, according to CNN. “Seeing my fellow Muslims being tortured, raped and killed in Burma led to a boiling point. I can’t take it anymore.”
The post claimed that the only way to stop lone wolf terrorist attacks by Muslims is to agree to leave them alone and stop interfering with other countries.
"By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims," he wrote. "You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday."
The post also made reference to “our hero Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki,” a Muslim cleric whose statements and videos have been cited as inspiration by many terrorists in recent years.
No direct pledge of allegiance to ISIS has been reported, but the stabbings came days after the terrorist group released a video renewing its call for supporters to carry out attacks on non-believers using weapons like knives and vehicles.
Terrorism expert Michael Smith observed on Twitter that many users on pro-ISIS Telegram messenger channels were referring to Artan as a “brother” Monday and praising his actions. The posting by Amaq Tuesday provides further evidence of possible ISIS inspiration, but questions remain.
For now, the investigation continues and authorities warn against jumping to conclusions.