- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016

Police are investigating what motivated a Somali-born Ohio State University student to plow a car into a group of pedestrians and to stab others with a butcher knife Monday morning — an incident that triggered a lockdown on the Columbus campus as police responded to the scene and fatally shot the man.

Authorities said first-year OSU student Abdul Razak Ali Artan injured 11 people in the rampage.

OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said the attack “was done on purpose” but declined to speculate on the suspect’s motive. Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said authorities were looking into the possibility that the attack was terrorism-inspired.

“I think we have to consider that it is,” Chief Jacobs said.

No terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack, but several Islamic State-associated social media accounts publicized the incident and lauded Artan as “brother,” said Michael S. Smith II, a terrorism analyst at Kronos Advisory. He said the group often looks to promote such acts of violence in the West to encourage others who might consider carrying out similar assaults.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, said the attack bore “the hallmarks of terror.”

“While we do not yet have confirmation of terrorist connections, this is the type of indiscriminate violence our enemies are urging their followers to use against us,” he said.

Most of those injured were struck by Artan’s car, but at least four were treated for stab wounds or knife lacerations, said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Though one was brought to a hospital with critical injuries, Dr. Thomas said, all were expected to survive.

Authorities said the violence could have had much more tragic consequences if not for the quick actions of a campus police officer who encountered Artan within a minute of the attack. OSU Officer Alan Horujko was in the area to respond to a fire alarm when Artan steered his car onto a curb and struck several people. The officer fatally shot Artan after he failed to comply with orders to drop his knife.

“He had cleared that call, and then this happened before his eyes,” Chief Stone said. “It helped, the officer being in the right place at the right time.”

The FBI declined to comment on a motive and referred questions to local law enforcement, but lawmakers fear the incident could be the latest example of a young person becoming radicalized by propaganda.

“While we are still awaiting more information from the investigation into the OSU attack, it bears the all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Here in the United States, our most immediate threat still comes from lone attackers that are not only capable of unleashing great harm, but are also extremely difficult, and in some cases virtually impossible, to identify or interdict.”

The Islamic State has long used its social media to try to provoke Muslims in Western nations to launch “lone wolf” assaults. In July, a Tunisian man drove a truck into a group of Bastille Day revelers in Nice, France. The terrorist group also has encouraged and claimed responsibility for several knife attacks, most recently last month in Hamburg, Germany.

The Associated Press reported that Artan came to the United States in 2014 from Pakistan, where he had lived since leaving Somalia with his family in 2007. The Somali government is battling the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, which has recruited several American fighters from Somali communities in the U.S.

School records indicate that Artan received an associate of arts degree from Columbus State Community College this spring. OSU President Michael Drake said Artan was in his first year at the school. Officials were unsure about his age but believed he was born in 1998, likely making him 18.

In an interview from August with the OSU newspaper The Lantern, Artan spoke about being a practicing Muslim and his concern that expressing his faith in the open could be misinterpreted.

“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media,” he said, describing his first day on campus. “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. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads.”

Chief Stone said investigators have reviewed surveillance footages showing Artan’s car arrive on campus Monday morning and confirmed he was alone in the vehicle. Law enforcement officers were obtaining search warrants and conducting interviews with others who knew Artan to learn more about his background and motivations.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked the public to let the investigation play out and not jump to conclusions.

“We may never totally find out why this person did what they did or why they snapped,” Mr. Kasich said. “But we right now have to have patience.”

More than 60,000 students are enrolled at Ohio State University, making it one of the nation’s largest universities.

The violence erupted as students were returning to campus after the Thanksgiving holiday. TV news crews on the scene showed dozens of ambulances parked at the campus as well as swarms of law enforcement officers.

Emergency alerts sent to students, faculty and staff about the incident initially led to confusion over what occurred.

Messages posted to the university’s Emergency Management and Fire Prevention Twitter account around 10 a.m. warned of an active shooter on campus and instructed those near the school to shelter in place.

One message urged people to “Run, hide, fight,” — invoking the emergency management protocol for active shooter scenarios that instructs people to run and evacuate from the scene if possible, to hide and get out of sight of a shooter, and, as a last resort, to fight back if in imminent danger.

About an hour and a half later, the OSU Police Department lifted the shelter-in-place order, posting on Twitter that the “scene is now secure.”

Classes were canceled at the university for the remainder of the Monday but were expected to resume Tuesday.

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