A report by a news agency linked to the Islamic State claimed on Sunday that a “soldier of the Islamic State” was behind a stabbing attack on Saturday night at a Minnesota shopping mall, an episode that the F.B.I. said it was investigating as a “potential act of terrorism.” Nine people were injured in the attack before an off-duty police officer fatally shot the knife-wielding man, the authorities in St. Cloud said.
The attacker, who was dressed in a security guard uniform, mentioned Allah and asked at least one victim if he was Muslim, the police said. All nine victims were expected to survive.
The Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for the episode, but it was unclear whether the attacker, whom the police have not identified, was in fact acting in the name of the terror group. The Amaq News Agency, which acts as the Islamic State’s newswire, released a bulletin saying the “executor of the stabbing attacks in #Minnesota yesterday was a soldier of the Islamic State.”
The terror group’s bulletin went on to say the attack was a response to the group’s call to “target citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition,” a term referring to the United States-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the group. The language of the bulletin — down to the reference to the perpetrator as a soldier of the Islamic State — mirrors claims of responsibility the group issued for numerous attacks in recent weeks.
This summer, a spokesman for the Islamic State, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, advised his followers overseas to carry out jihad at home. He said that it was no longer necessary to join the group in Iraq and Syria, and that aspiring jihadists should instead use whatever means they had to kill.
Chief William Blair Anderson of the St. Cloud police told reporters at the scene, “It has hit home for us,” adding, “But I want everybody in St. Cloud to know that we will be diligent and we will get to the bottom of this.”
“It’s an awful day, honestly,” Chief Anderson said.
In a phone interview on Sunday morning, Mayor Dave Kleis said the mall, Crossroads Center, was an active crime scene and would remain closed. He praised the off-duty police officer, who he said had “clearly saved lives and protected the other individuals.”
“This is exactly what keeps me up at night, and last night it did,” Mr. Kleis said. “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.”
Later Sunday, Mr. Kleis identified the off-duty officer as Jason Falconer, a police officer in nearby Avon, Minn. Mr. Kleis said video footage of the shooting, which has not been released publicly, showed Officer Falconer confronting the attacker in a Macy’s store and shooting him as he charged with a knife.
“For me watching it, it looked like a training video for what law enforcement should do,” Mr. Kleis said.
The mayor said the wounded included seven men, one woman and a teenage girl, all from the St. Cloud area.
Mr. Kleis called the attack an “evil act, unjustifiable in any way.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Mitch Smith