ISIS Wing Claims Responsibility For Minnesota Mall Attack; Suspect ID'd

From NPR:
Nine people were injured in a stabbing attack in a Minnesota shopping mall late Saturday. An ISIS-run news agency claimed a "soldier of the Islamic State" was responsible.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We've talked about the explosions in New York and New Jersey this weekend. There was also an attack in Minnesota by a man with a knife who attacked patrons at a shopping mall in the city of St. Cloud. Nine people were injured Saturday night, none fatally, although the attacker was killed by an off-duty police officer. And today, the Islamic State took credit. Reporter Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio has been following this story, and he's with us now on the line. Tim, thanks for joining us.

TIM NELSON, BYLINE: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So tell us what you know. It was otherwise a routine Saturday night at the mall, and then what happened?

NELSON: This happened in one of Minnesota's bigger cities, St. Cloud, as you said, with a population of about 66,000. It's about 70 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. The Crossroads Center Mall, it had a regular Saturday and was about to close for the night when a man in a private security uniform went into the mall and started attacking people with a knife. Now, at one point, like you said, he encountered an off-duty part-time police officer from a nearby city.

That officer, Jason Falconer, opened fire as the suspect approached him. The St. Cloud mayor said the assailant fell down as many as three times, but the officer kept firing and eventually killed the assailant. And I should add this last encounter was apparently caught on a Macy's department store surveillance video camera.

MARTIN: Now, an ISIS-run news agency today said that this attack was the work of, quote, "a soldier of the Islamic state," unquote. What are law enforcement officials saying? Are they saying that the assailant did in fact have ties to the Islamic State?

NELSON: Well, that's pretty hard to tell this early in an incident like this. And they're not saying very much about it. And here's what Richard Thornton, the head of the FBI in Minnesota, had to say when asked about those ties to global terror.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICHARD THORNTON: We are currently investigating this as a potential act of terrorism, and I do say potential. There's a lot we don't know. We do not at this point in time know whether the subject was in contact with, had connections with, was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization.

NELSON: I should add, however, that he did say that both the FBI and a joint terrorism task force are working on this case. They're looking at the suspect's background, his social media accounts and any other indication of what might have inspired this attack.

MARTIN: They haven't released his name yet?

NELSON: No.

MARTIN: Do they know his name and they just aren't telling us what it is?

NELSON: They aren't telling us what it is at this point. There's - there are some reports, even media reports, identifying him at this point, but we have not confirmed that yet.

MARTIN: What can you tell us about the victims and their conditions at this point?

NELSON: Well, police added another person to the list of those wounded today, someone who sought medical attention on their own. We know there were seven men, a woman and a teenage girl hurt. They didn't go into a lot of details about their injuries, but we know that five of them were treated and released at the St. Cloud Hospital. And authorities are describing their injuries as non-life threatening.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, Tim, how are people in the community reacting to all this?

NELSON: I think with a great deal of worry. It isn't clear what inspired this attack or how it - how extensive it might be, although police in St. Cloud have said they don't believe there's any further threat to public safety at this point. But, you know, I should also say we've talked to members of Minnesota's sizable Somali-American population - you know, estimates are there are about 30,000 Somali-Americans in Minnesota - and leaders of that community believe this attacker may have been one of them.

And this comes on the heels of recent federal charges against nearly a dozen young Somali-Americans suspected of traveling to fight with the Islamic State in Syria or trying to travel there. So authorities have some evidence of radicalization here in Minnesota already. But, you know, that said, like you pointed out, authorities haven't identified this suspect or told us about his background yet, so we're looking for more information here in the days to come.

MARTIN: That's Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio. Tim, thank you.

NELSON: You're welcome.

MARTIN: We are going to talk more about this in a few minutes. We're going to ask what investigators are looking for and why it matters whether or not officials call these episodes terrorism.

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