COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Somali-born student who carried out a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University may have been inspired by the Islamic State group and a former al-Qaida leader, investigators said Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials said it’s too soon to say the rampage that hurt 11 people on Monday was terrorism and that they were not aware of any direct contact between the Islamic State and the attacker.
“We only believe he may have been inspired” by the group and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who took a leadership role in al-Qaida before being killed in 2011, said Angela Byers, an FBI agent leading the investigation.
The FBI said it was looking to verify whether rantings posted on Facebook about U.S. interference in Muslim lands on the morning of the attack were made by the assailant, Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan.
Police did say that Artan bought a knife before the attack but do not know if that was the weapon he used.
The 18-year-old was fatally shot by a police officer shortly after driving into pedestrians and then slashing others with a knife.
Ohio State students on Wednesday continued to offer messages of support.
All four panels of a two-sided board in the student union were filled with messages in the morning. Writers using markers have contributed Bible verses, famous quotations and well-wishes to both the victims and police.
A number of students stopped by to check out the board by the information desk in the union. Around them, a tour guide led prospective students and their parents out into the drizzle.
Three of the 11 people injured in the attack remain hospitalized and are expected to recover, according to the Ohio State medical center.
Tuesday evening, a leader of a Somali community association in Columbus said Artan drove his siblings to school as normal beforehand.
Artan’s mother said she didn’t know anything was wrong until police showed up at her door, said Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association, relating an in-person conversation he had with the mother Monday afternoon.
Nothing seemed different about her son, who she said was enjoying his education, Omar said.
“He woke up and he went to school,” Omar said.