ST. CLOUD, Minn. (UPI) — A group with ties to the Islamic State militant group is claiming responsibility for the stabbing of eight people in a Minnesota mall Saturday, saying the attacker was one of their “soldiers.”
The IS-linked Amaq Agency called the man “a soldier of the Islamic State” who “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition,” the Wall Street Journal reported. Several other news outlets are reporting on the Amaq Agency statement as well.
St. Cloud police would not confirm whether they have made a connection between the stabbings and the group. He said the attacker made reference to Allah as he carried out the stabbings.
An investigator close to the probe said they are trying to determine if there is an international terrorist link.
Police said they do not believe the stabbings were connected with an explosion in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood Saturday night that sent 29 people to the hospital. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Chelsea explosion was definitely an act of terrorism, but investigators have not linked it to international terrorism. A second explosive device was found about four blocks away.
In Minnesota, St. Cloud Police Sgt. Jason Burke said victims were transported to nearby hospitals, USA Today reported.
“The individual we believe to be responsible for the victims’ stab wounds is currently deceased inside the mall,” Burke said in a statement Saturday night. The mall remained closed Sunday.
St. Cloud Hospital spokesman Chris Nelson said the eight victims were transported to an area hospital. Seven of them had non-life threatening injuries and an eighth was admitted for treatment.
Danny Carranza of Willmar and his children were in the play area near Macy’s when the attack began.
“People came running around the corner and I freaked out because I thought it was a terrorist attack or something because I saw a lot of people, so I grabbed my kids,” he said.
“I ran as much as I could and I heard someone yell ‘Stop! Stop!’ As soon as the door shut I heard gunshots,” CNN reported.
Carranza said he and his children were released from the locked-down mall by 11:20 p.m., but his wife was still inside.
The suspect entered the Crossroads Mall wearing a private security company uniform at the time of the incident, witnesses said. St. Cloud Police Chief William B. Anderson said the man asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he began his attack, which occurred in multiple locations inside the mall and in several stores.
An off-duty police officer shot the man dead.
Police did not identify the attacker but said he was known to them for at least three previous encounters for minor traffic violations.
Anderson said he is not ready to call the attack terrorism-related until more details can be hammered out.