Authorities were investigating the stabbings of nine people inside a Minnesota mall Saturday night as a potential act of terrorism after an ISIS-linked news agency claimed that the attacker was “a soldier of the Islamic State.”
The stabbings — none of them fatal — occurred around 8 p.m. in the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis. They ended inside a Macy’s store where an off-duty police officer who happened to be at the mall shot and killed the attacker.
St. Cloud Mayor David Kleis said the man had lunged at Jason Falconer, a part-time police officer in Avon, Minnesota, west of St. Cloud. Falconer fired at the attacker, who fell but got up three times before he died. “He clearly prevented additional injuries and potential loss of life,” Kleis said Sunday afternoon. “His heroic actions are exemplary.”
Falconer is a former chief of police in Albany, Minnesota.
Richard Thornton, FBI special agent in Minneapolis, said at the same news conference that the attacks are were being investigated as a “potential” act of terrorism, but the suspect’s motive remains unknown.
The suspect, who was wearing a private security company uniform, made at least one reference to Allah during the attacks with what appeared to be a kitchen knife, and asked at least one person whether they were Muslim before attacking them, according to the St. Cloud Police Department.
In a statement Sunday, the ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency said the suspect “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
U.S. officials said there’s no indication at this time that the suspect had direct communications with the Islamic State, or that the group had planned the attack or knew of it beforehand.
All of the victims, whose ages range from 15 to 53, suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.
Authorities didn’t identify the attacker. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis said Ahmed Adan, a Somali speaking through an interpreter, said his son Dahir A. Adan, 22, was the attacker and had lived in the United States for 15 years. The newspaper reported that Ahmed Adan said police told him around 9 p.m. Saturday that his son had died at the mall, and that police had raided the family’s apartment, seizing photos and other materials.