Wednesday 21 February 2018

Mall attacker blank-eyed and emotionless - victim

Isaiah Mordal, 22, and his girlfriend Johanna Bohnenkamp, 15, were attacked by the knifeman (Star Tribune/AP)
Isaiah Mordal, 22, and his girlfriend Johanna Bohnenkamp, 15, were attacked by the knifeman (Star Tribune/AP)

One of the victims of the Minnesota mall stabbings has said the man who carried out the attack showed no emotion and his eyes looked blank.

Ryan Schliep, one of 10 people wounded before the attacker was shot dead by an off-duty police officer, told WCCO-TV that the man "just walked right at me" before striking quickly and penetrating the skin of his scalp.

"He looked just blank in the eyes like he wasn't even there," Mr Schliep said shortly before being released from a St Cloud hospital.

Authorities are treating Saturday's stabbings at Crossroads Centre Mall as a possible act of terrorism, in part because an Islamic State-run news agency claimed the attacker was a "soldier" of the group who had heeded its calls for attacks in countries that are part of a US-led anti-IS coalition.

But it was not immediately known whether the extremist group had planned the attack or knew about it beforehand.

St Cloud police chief Blair Anderson said the attack appeared to be the work of an individual and there was no sign that the man, identified as 20-year-old Dahir Adan, was radicalised or communicated with any terrorist group.

President Barack Obama said the stabbings had no apparent connection to the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey.

Because Adan was Somali, leaders of the state's large Somali community acknowledged the prospect of a "long winter" for its people after the stabbings, but warned not to quickly accept the terrorism connection.

"We cannot give Isis and other terrorist organisations more air-time and propaganda without real facts," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Minnesota chapter.

Little is known about Adan. He had only a traffic ticket on his record, was apparently out of work after his job as a part-time security guard ended and had not enrolled in college since the spring term. Adan was wearing a security guard's uniform during the attack.

A spokesman for the family, Abdi Wahid Osman, read from a statement expressing condolences for the injured and anyone else affected.

"As we mourn the death of our son, Dahir Adan, who was very dear to us, we are in deep shock as everyone else is in the state of Minnesota," the statement said.

Federal officials released no new information on Monday on the investigation into the stabbing. FBI Special Agent in Charge Rick Thornton has said authorities were digging into Adan's background and possible motives, looking at social media accounts and electronic devices and talking to people he knew.

Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali population, an estimated 57,000 people. Both Mr Anderson and governor Mark Dayton warned against a possible backlash due to the stabbings, especially in St Cloud, where Somalis in the 65,000-resident city about 65 miles north west of Minneapolis have spoken about mistreatment in the past.

"I implore the citizens of St. Cloud and the citizens of Minnesota to rise above this incident and remember our common humanity," Mr Dayton said.

"It's going to be tough times. We know it's going to be a long winter for this community," said Haji Yusuf, who is part of UniteCloud, a local group founded to tackle racial and ethnic tension in the city.

Last year St Cloud school officials met Somali parents, community elders and students after Somali-American students walked out to protest about their treatment. One student had said Somali-Americans were called IS members and had their headscarves pulled off.

A photo was posted on social media of a Somali-American student using a wheelchair after breaking her leg with a caption that said she was "disabled in Isis."

If the stabbings are ultimately deemed a terrorist act, it would be the first carried out by a Somali on US soil.

Adan was employed by security firm Securitas and was assigned for a few months to an Electrolux factory near the mall, Electrolux spokeswoman Eloise Hale said.

His father Ahmed, speaking through an interpreter, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was 22, but court records and a driving licence database showed his age as 20. Police also said he was 20.

Mr Yusuf, who has spoken with Adan's parents, said Adan went to the mall to pick up an iPhone. He said Adan seemed happy when left the home, which was the last time his parents saw him.

Five minutes after authorities received the first 911 call, Jason Falconer, a part-time police officer in the city of Avon, began shooting the attacker as he was lunging at him with the knife, Mr Anderson said, and continued to engage him as the attacker got up three times.

Avon police chief Corey Nellis said Mr Falconer owned a firing range and was the city's firearms instructor.

"If I was going to ask anybody to fire live rounds in a crowded mall, I would trust his abilities next to anybody's," he said.


Press Association

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