• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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FBI investigating stabbing attack in Minnesota mall as ‘potential act of terrorism’

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The FBI is looking at the stabbing attack at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, as possible terrorism, authorities said Saturday, as ISIS claims responsibility for the violence that left nine people injured.

“We are currently investigating this as a potential act of terrorism, and I do say ‘potential,'” said FBI agent Richard Thornton of the bureau’s Minneapolis office at a Saturday press conference.

Thompson said investigators are looking at all aspects of the life of the suspect, who has yet to be identified and who was shot and killed at the scene by an off-duty police officer, to determine his motives and whether there is a link to terrorism.

“We will try to peel back the onion to find out what motivated this individual to commit the horrific act that he did,” Thornton said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack by the man, who was wearing a security guard’s uniform when he stabbed people at the mall at about 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

The attacker was “a soldier of the Islamic State” who carried out the attack in response to ISIS calls for violence against civilians, according to a news agency, Rasd, operated by the Islamic State group.

ISIS has used similar language following incidents in which the group did not have prior knowledge or any kind of direct connection to the attack, and it is unclear how the organization may have been linked to the event in Minnesota.

Authorities said the assailant in the mall attack is reported to have mentioned Allah and to have asked at least one of his victims if he or she was Muslim.

St. Cloud police initially reported eight victims, but said Saturday that a ninth person went to the hospital on their own. None of the victims suffered life-threatening wounds, and all but three of those injured were released by early Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

The nine victims included a 15-year-old girl, a 50-year-old woman and seven men ranging in age from 20 to 53.

The suspect was killed by an off-duty, part-time police officer from nearby Avon, Minnesota, who happened to be at the mall at the time, St. Cloud officials said.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis and the city’s police chief, Blair Anderson, praised the officer, identified as Jason Falconer.

“He clearly prevented additional injuries and potentially loss of life,” Kleis said. “Clearly, Officer Falconer was there at the right time and the right place.”

The attack occurred at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, a city of about 65,000 people 60 miles northwest of Minneapolis.