Investigators acknowledged Wednesday that Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the 20-year-old Somali refugee responsible for Monday’s horrific attack on the Columbus campus of Ohio State University, “may have been inspired by ISIS” and American al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
However, officials stopped short of characterizing this week’s violence as an act of terrorism.
Authorities told reporters during a press briefing that it was too early to draw any conclusions concerning Artan’s motivations, noting investigators still had “a long road to go” before declaring Monday’s attack on 11 people terrorism. They did, however, acknowledge the style of attack was similar to one advocated by the terrorist group ISIS.
Artan, who was a legal, permanent resident of the United States and an Ohio State student, crashed his brother’s Honda Civic into a crowd of people who were outside a campus building after a fire alarm. Investigators say Artan emerged from the car, and used a butcher knife to start cutting into people.
At today’s press conference, officials confirmed that Artan bought a knife from a local Wal-Mart on Monday morning after dropping his sister off at school. They did not confirm the knife purchased hours earlier was the same used in the attack.
Investigators continue to review Artan’s social media posts and email communications as they attempt to establish a direct link to ISIS, which claimed the OSU student as one of its “soldiers” in an announcement Tuesday.
Officials said Wednesday that while Artan “may have been inspired by ISIS,” it was important to consider the terrorist organization has “been known to take credit for such attacks” after the perpetrators are dead “and can’t dispute those claims.”
Artan was not on the FBI’s radar, according to officials, who added there is no indication the student — who was shot dead by a campus officer within a minute of the crash — had a personal relationship with any of his victims
Officials are asking for the public’s help in accounting for Artan’s actions or whereabouts between the time he purchased the knife and his arrival on the OSU campus several hours later.
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On Tuesday, an engineering professor who was injured in Monday’s attack spoke about his ordeal for the first time — but would not comment on Artan or what may have driven him to violence.
William Clark sustained two severe lacerations to one of his legs after being struck by the car driven by Artan. The impact sent the professor hurtling through the air.
Clark told reporters he is “too aware of things that drive students to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do” and therefore refused to comment on Artan. He called the attack “tragic” before hailing the officer who ended the rampage; he has been placed on administrative leave following the fatal shooting.
“He’s got to live with this the rest of his life,” Clark said of Officer Alan Horujko. “But he did the right thing.”