A stabbing attack at a St. Cloud mall that sent nine people to the hospital, and ended when an off-duty police officer shot the knife-wielding suspect, is being investigated as a possible act of terrorism.
Around 8 p.m. Saturday, a suspect entered Crossroads Mall and began stabbing shoppers. St. Cloud police said in an email news release the suspect is said to have referred to “Allah” during the attack, and is believed to have asked at least one person if they were a Muslim before assaulting them.
The suspect, who has not been identified by authorities, was then shot and killed by Jason Falconer – a part-time police officer with Avon PD and former chief of police in Albany, said St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis on Sunday afternoon at a news conference.
Eight people were taken to the hospital, and a ninth person later admitted themselves. One of the victims was a 15-year-old girl, the others were all adults.
Was it a terrorist attack?
Also at the news conference, Richard Thornton with the FBI’s Minneapolis office said the attack was being treated as a “potential act of terrorism.”
That came after the Islamic State militant group, through the Amaq News Agency, called the suspect “a soldier of the Islamic State,” adding he “carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
Thornton said however, that it hasn’t been confirmed whether the suspect had actual ties to the Islamic State.
“We do not know if the subject was in contact with, had connections with, or was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization,” he said.
The Associated Press reports that the Islamic State often claims credit in the immediate wake of terrorist attacks even if they had little or nothing to do with the organization of it – other than to have possibly “inspired” the attacker.
Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent now of security intelligence firm The Soufan Group, suggests that the Islamic State may have claimed credit just from reading news reports the attacker had mentioned “Allah.”
Denouncing the attack
The Muslim Public Affairs Council issued a tweet denouncing the actions of ISIS.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also condemned the attacks, saying: “If true that they were motivated by religious bigotry, I condemn them even more strongly. There is no place in Minnesota for intolerance of all Americans’ constitutional right to worship according to their beliefs.”
Kleis also had this to say: