Ohio State assault by immigrant raises fears in Somali community

A car which police say was used by an attacker to plow into a group of students is seen outside Watts Hall on Ohio State University's campus

y Kim Palmer

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Immigrants in Columbus, Ohio’s Somali community fear a backlash after a young immigrant injured 11 people in an attack at Ohio State University, the second attack by an African immigrant in the area this year.

With the second-largest Somali population in the United States, the area’s 38,000 immigrants fear the college town and state capital may be less welcoming of foreigners.

The attack also comes at a time when President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to suspend immigration from countries where Islamist militants are active and new arrivals cannot be safely vetted.

“We are at the mercy of the community that allows us to be here,” said Abdilahi Hassan, a 28-year-old restaurant owner who has lived in Columbus since he was 14.

Hassan said the assailant was not representative of immigrants from war-torn Somalia. “There are always some bad apples,” he said.

The assailant, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 20, was shot dead by a police officer on Monday moments after he plowed his car into a crowd of pedestrians and then leapt out and began stabbing people with a butcher knife.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, and U.S. officials said that Artan may have followed the same path to self-radicalization as militants in a number of “lone wolf” attacks.

In February an immigrant from Guinea wounded several people when he attacked with a machete inside a Columbus restaurant.

Last year, a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen was arrested after authorities said he trained with the Syria-based Nusra Front and then returned to the United States to kill Americans.

If Monday’s attacker, Artan, was radicalized, then it was by outside sources and could not have come from the Columbus community, said Burhan Ahmed, head of the Center for Somali American Engagement in Columbus.

“America saved Somalis. America is where every religion is respected,” he said.

He added that the Somali and Muslim communities were trying to educate young people to counter propaganda on the internet from sources like the Islamic State. Most Somalis are Muslim but there are also Christians in the country.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther met on Tuesday with a group of Somali immigrants, including religious and business leaders, to reassure them they were part of the city’s fabric, city officials said.

The city government has a New American Initiative designed to help Somali refugees and other recent immigrants get settled. The program explains city services to immigrants and helps them navigate bureaucracy.

Tensions between immigrants and city residents are not unique and Columbus is prepared to deal with them, said Zach Klein, the president of the city council. He visited the Masjid Ibn Taymia Mosque on Tuesday in a show of support.

“We are the 15th largest city in the United States and we are going to have the same problems that other large cities have. We are not immune to them,” he said.

(Additional reporting and writing by David Ingram in New York;
Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Car, knife attack at Ohio State injures 11; suspect’s background probed

A girl is led to an ambulance by emergency personnel following an attack at Ohio State University's campus in Columbus, Ohio.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A car and knife attack by an Ohio State University student that injured 11 people on Monday before the suspect was shot dead by a police officer is being investigated as a possible terror attack, a U.S. congressman and another government source said.

The suspect, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was shot and killed by a police officer with less than two years on the force after driving into a group of people and then jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing people with a butcher knife at the school’s Columbus campus, said Monica Moll, director of public safety for Ohio State University.

The assailant was an 18-year-old immigrant from Somalia and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, two U.S. government sources said. Ohio State University Police Chief Craig Stone told a news conference that Artan might have been as old as 20.

The officials said they could not speak on the record because of the ongoing investigation.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said intelligence agencies were assisting in the investigation.

“It bears all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized,” Schiff said in a statement.

Another U.S. official, who asked not to be named because of the ongoing investigation, told Reuters that U.S. agencies are investigating the Columbus attacker’s background and motivations, but cannot clearly say yet whether he had any ties to suspected militant cells or groups.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident by Lisa Monaco, his homeland security adviser, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

A spokesman for Columbus’ Somali community spoke out against the attack.

“I want everyone to know that we the Somali-American community stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow Americans in condemning the sickening violence that took place in our city earlier today,” Abdi Dini, a member of the Somali community, said at a news conference in Ohio.

A car which police say was used by an attacker to plow into a group of students is seen outside Watts Hall on Ohio State University's campus in Columbus

A car which police say was used by an attacker to plow into a group of students is seen outside Watts Hall on Ohio State University’s campus in Columbus. Courtesy of Mason Swires/thelantern.com


The campus newspaper, The Lantern, on Monday posted on its website an interview with Artan that it had published only in print in August as part of its Humans of Ohio State feature.

In the interview, Artan, a third-year logistics management student, said he had recently transferred to Ohio State from Columbus State University. Artan talked about being a Muslim and said that Columbus State had offered more accommodations for prayer.

“We had prayer rooms, like actual rooms where we could go pray because we Muslims have to pray five times a day,” he was quoted as saying.

Artan said he was scared to pray openly on campus as a Muslim, saying that he feared that media portrayals of Muslims would give people the wrong idea about him.

“This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray,” 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 just did it. … I went over to the corner and just prayed.”

Of the people injured in the attack on Monday, one was critically injured, Columbus fire officials said. Eleven people were treated at area hospitals, including 10 taken by ambulance.

“It frankly took a piece out of everybody here at our beautiful Ohio State University that this could have happened here,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said at a news conference.

With nearly 60,000 students, the Columbus campus is the state’s flagship public university.

Fire officials said the critically injured victim was taken to the university hospital. A spokeswoman said that by Monday evening, none of the patients there suffered from life-threatening conditions.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center treated six victims, including two with stab wounds and three who were hit by the vehicle, said Dr. Andrew Thomas, the chief medical officer.

Two other hospitals received five patients, who suffered from lacerations and injuries caused by the vehicle, Thomas said.

The university initially reported the attack on Twitter, saying it involved an “active shooter.”

Moll said that while in the vehicle, the suspect jumped the curb and used the vehicle to strike pedestrians in front of Watts Hall.

He then left the vehicle and stabbed several other people, Stone, the Ohio State police chief, said.

Less than 2 minutes elapsed between the first call for help at 9:52 a.m. and the shots fired by campus police officer Alan Horujko, 28, Moll said.

Monday’s incident follows a stabbing attack in September at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where a man whose family came to the United States from Somalia wounded 10 people with a knife before he was shot to death by an off-duty police officer.

Authorities last month indicated the Minnesota attacker showed signs of radicalization, and a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent said his actions appeared to be “consistent with the philosophies of violent radical Islamic groups.”

CNN aired an image from a room at Ohio State where students had barricaded a door with stacked chairs.

Columbus and university police continued their investigation with assistance from the FBI.

A university warning on Twitter telling students to shelter in place was lifted shortly before noon (1700 GMT).

The university campus remained open, although classes were canceled for the day.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland, Laila Kearney and Franklin Paul in New York, Mark Hosenball and Ayesha Rascoe in Washington and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)

At least 10 injured in Ohio State University attack

Ohio State Seal

(Reuters) – At least 10 people were injured, one critically, at Ohio State University, in an attack that was carried out by an assailant who used a knife and a vehicle to attack people , local officials said.

The assailant was shot and killed by police but not before he had struck his victims with the vehicle and stabbed them, the university said in a statement.

Ohio State University said it had lifted a shelter-in-place order shortly before noon local time, adding that the campus was secure.

Ohio State University police and local law enforcement continued their investigation at the campus, the college said.

The university campus remained open, although classes were canceled for the rest of the day.

Rebecca Diehm, a spokeswoman for the Columbus Fire Department, said 10 people were injured and transported to local hospitals, with one person in critical condition.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center treated five people with non-life threatening injuries and all were in stable condition, spokeswoman Amanda Harper said.

Two people were treated at Grant Medical Center and two others at Riverside Medical Center, said Mark Hopkins, a spokesman for Ohio Health, which runs a state hospital network. All four were in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries, according to Hopkins, who could not confirm the nature of the injuries.

“The Columbus City Council stands united with Ohio State University,” said Council President Zach Klein. “We are continually thinking about and praying for all those involved and affected by this senseless act of violence.”

“Ohio’s thoughts and prayers go out to the Ohio State community,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said in a statement. “Be safe, listen to first responders.”

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland and Laila Kearney and Franklin Paul in New York, Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)