The man responsible for stabbing eight people in a Minnesota mall on Saturday is now being deemed “a soldier of the Islamic State,” by ISIS linked news agencies.
The attacked happened around 8:15 p.m. in the Crossroads Mall of St. Cloud, Minnesota. The suspect was dressed as a security guard managed to stab eight people before he was shot to death by an off-duty police officer. According to witnesses, the man made a reference to Allah and asked at least one person if they were Muslim before stabbing them. Amaq, an ISIS news agency, released a statement on Sunday, saying the attack was “in response to calls to target citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
All eight victims suffered non-fatal injuries and have survived.
At a press conference Saturday night, Police Chief William Blair Anderson did not call the suspect a terrorist and told reporters that his motives were still unknown. “I want everyone in St. Cloud to know we will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson told reporters. “Starting tomorrow, St. Cloud will not be the same anymore.”
And it won’t be. Given ISIS’s possible involvement in the attack and that it occurred about an hour away from Minneapolis, the FBI is assisting the police investigation.
“Right now we’re trying to ascertain the facts,” Minneapolis FBI field office spokesman Kyle Loven told The Washington Post. He refused to comment on ISIS’s claims.
Harley Exsted, who was shopping in the mall at the time, said,”All of a sudden I heard pop pop pop… All of a sudden these people started running. I just saw everybody running our way.”
Ashley Bayne, who was in the mall’s JCPenny, recalls a similar experience. “All the sudden people were just running in chaos. They were screaming, ‘Someone’s stabbing people in the mall,’ and people were just really frantic and were running,” she told WCCO news.
Sydney Weirs, a college student shopping with friends, recounted how a man bleeding from the side of his face screamed at her and her friends to leave the mall, which they managed to do.
After the suspect was subdued, the police ordered a lockdown of the mall, declaring it a crime scene. All those who had not managed to leave the mall in time were left waiting in the mall for questioning. They have all been released, according to Sgt. Jason Burke, spokesman for the St. Cloud Police Department.
The mall will remain closed, as it is still an active crime scene said Mayor Dave Kleis in a phone interview with CNN. The mayor praised the off-duty officer who shot the suspect, though the officer’s name has not yet been released to the public.
“This could happen in any community in this country, and certainly we have seen it happen. Certainly it is something that really scares a community,” Kleis said.
The attack in Minnesota came the same night a pipe bomb was detonated near a Marine Corps charity run by the Jersey Shore, an explosion occurred in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, and another pressure cooker bomb was found and disabled in Manhattan.
None of the incidents claimed fatalities and are being handled by the FBI. Currently, authorities say that the bombings and the stabbing are not correlated.