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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Terrorism motive probed after Ohio State University attack

Officer Alan Horujko has been hailed a hero for killing the attacker (Ohio State University Police/AP)
Officer Alan Horujko has been hailed a hero for killing the attacker (Ohio State University Police/AP)

Investigators are looking into whether a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University that injured 11 people was an act of terror by a student who had once criticised the media for its portrayal of Muslims.

The attacker, identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, ploughed his car into a group of pedestrians on campus shortly before 10am on Monday and then got out and began stabbing people with a butcher knife before he was shot dead by a campus police officer, authorities said.

A motive was not immediately known, but police said they were investigating whether it was a terrorist attack.

Artan was born in Somalia and was a legal permanent US resident, according to an official.

University Police Chief Craig Stone said Artan deliberately drove his small grey Honda over a curb outside an engineering classroom building and then began stabbing people.

Officer Alan Horujko, 28, who was nearby because of a gas leak, arrived on scene and shot the driver in less than a minute, Mr Stone said.

Eleven victims, mostly students, were taken to three Columbus hospitals. Most had been hurt by the car, and two had been stabbed, officials said. One had a fractured skull.

Four remained in hospital on Tuesday morning, the hospitals said.

Several prayer vigils were held on Monday night to support the victims and the community.

Classes at OSU were cancelled after the attack, but were scheduled to resume Tuesday.

Students said they were nervous about returning and planned to take precautions such as not walking alone.

US Rep Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the act bore the hallmarks of an attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalised.

Ohio State's student newspaper, The Lantern, ran an interview in August with a student named Abdul Razak Artan, who identified himself as a Muslim and a third-year logistics management student who had just transferred from Columbus State in the fall.

He said he was looking for a place to pray openly and worried about how he would be received.

"I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I'm a Muslim, it's not what media portrays me to be," 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 don't blame them. It's the media that put that picture in their heads."

In recent months, federal law enforcement officials have raised concerns about online extremist propaganda that encourages knife and car attacks, which are easier to pull off than bombings.

The Islamic State group has urged sympathisers online to carry out lone-wolf attacks in their home countries with whatever weapons are available to them.

Artan was not known to the FBI before Monday's attack, according to a law enforcement official.

Dozens of FBI agents began searching Artan's apartment on Monday night.

Neighbours said he was always polite and attended daily prayer services at a mosque on the city's west side.

Leaders of Muslim organisations and mosques in the Columbus area condemned the attacks while cautioning people against jumping to conclusions or blaming a religion or an ethnicity.

Surveillance photos showed Artan in the car by himself just before the attack, but investigators are looking into whether anyone else was involved, the campus police chief said.


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