Islamic State claims responsibility for Minnesota mall attack — He was a “soldier of the Islamic state” — Off-duty police officer who killed mall attacker is firearms trainer, marksman

Updated 9:11 PM ET, Sun September 18, 2016

(CNN)The man who stabbed nine people at a Minnesota mall Saturday before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer was a “soldier of the Islamic state,” according to an ISIS-linked news agency.

ISIS claims 'soldier' who stabbed victims at mall

ISIS claims ‘soldier’ who stabbed victims at mall 00:47
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The statement posted online Sunday by the Amaq agency follows a pattern of ISIS-related media claiming responsibility for what appear to be the acts of individuals across Europe in the past few months.
CNN cannot independently confirm this latest claim.
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“We still don’t have anything substantive that would suggest anything more than what we know already, which is this was a lone attacker,” St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. “And right now, we’re trying to get to the bottom of his motivations.”
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The FBI is calling the attack “a potential act of terrorism.”
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Community leaders fear anti-Muslim backlash, call for unity
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In response to local reports identifying the attacker as being of Somali descent, members of the Muslim and Somali communities held a news conference Sunday expressing their grief for the victims and calling for unity.
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“We are also concerned about the potential backlash,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in Minnesota. “We understand in St. Cloud there is more anti-Muslim organizing and we hope they do not use this incident to divide … our community.”
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Ahmed Said, executive director of the Somali American Relations Council, had previously disclosed that it was unclear if religion motivated the attack, “but we know he is Somali,” the Minneapolis StarTribune quoted him as saying. Authorities have yet to confirm the attacker’s ethnicity. CNN was also unable to confirm if he was Somali.
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St. Cloud is home to one of Minnesota’s larger immigrant Muslim communities and tensions with some members in the larger community have spiked at times, the StarTribune reported. The Minneapolis newspaper and the St. Cloud Times identified the attacker as a member of the Somali community.
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In 2014, there was damage to mosques in St. Cloud and in 2013 the Muslim community in the city withdrew a bid to build a larger mosque because of tensions, the StarTribune reported.
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Speaking at Sunday’s news conference, Mohamoud Mohamed, a spokesman for the Central Minnesota Islamic Center in St. Cloud, emphasized that the central Minnesota Muslim community has no relationship with ISIS or any other “Islamic terrorist group.”
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“We are the victims of those terrorist groups,” he said. “Islam is peace… I pray for the victims.”
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The state was at the center of a federal investigation into the recruitment of fighters for ISIS. Nine Somali-Minnesotans were convicted at trial or pleaded guilty in a plot to travel to Syria to join ISIS. In years back, several dozen male residents left to join Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group working to turn Somalia into an Islamist state.
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“What’s remarkable about this case was that nothing stopped these defendants from plotting their goal,” said US Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota in announcing federal charges against the men.
“They were not confused young men. They were not easily influenced. These are focused men who are intent on joining a terrorist organization by any means possible.”
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But on Saturday, a Somali-American mother said she waited fearfully outside the mall Saturday, just like other citizens of the central Minnesota city, because her son was inside during the attack.
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“This has been a dark day; it is a day we will never forget,” said Lul Hersi. “Let us unite as one Minnesota… Please let’s spread love instead of hate. ISIS does not represent us. It does not represent Islam, and it does not represent Somalis.”
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The attack at the mall

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Police and witnesses said the man, wearing a private security company uniform, entered Crossroads Mall on Saturday night around 8 p.m. CT, made a reference to Allah and asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he attacked.
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St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said three people remain hospitalized, including one person who is in a life-threatening condition.
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Ashley Bayne, an employee of JCPenney at the mall, was visiting a coworker at the time of the incident.
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“All of sudden chaos just broke out,” she told CNN’s Nick Valencia on Sunday. “There was a bunch of people running into the JCPenney mall entrance, and they were just screaming that someone was going around the mall stabbing people, and that there was blood everywhere. It was just honestly a really scary experience.”
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Bayne said she ran out to the parking lot and took off in her car.
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The stabbings occurred in multiple locations inside the mall, including the common area and in several stores. The mall has security teams on site but they are not armed.
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Police knew attacker

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While the attacker was not identified, authorities said he’d had three previous encounters with police.
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Anderson said most of the encounters were for minor traffic violations. None resulted in an arrest.
Anderson declined to provide further details or say whether the attacker was a resident of St. Cloud. He said he is not ready to describe the stabbings as a terrorist attack until details such as a motive are established.
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He’s “clearly a hero”

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The mayor and police chief praised Jason Falconer, an off-duty police officer from nearby Avon, for killing the suspect as the assailant threatened other people in the mall.
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Falconer is a part-time officer for Avon and a former police chief of Albany, Minnesota, the officials said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. Both officials said they had viewed a surveillance tape from a Macy’s store which revealed details of the confrontation.
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“Officer Falconer was there at the right time at the right place,” Mayor Kleis said.
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“His heroic actions are exemplary of having witnessed what he did as the suspect was lunging at him with a knife. Not only did he fire, the suspect went down, came back up on three different occasions. He protected others from being injured and potentially loss of life. Clearly, a hero.”
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City changed forever

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The police chief said two search warrants were executed at an address in St. Cloud, and the suspect’s vehicle has been impounded.
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Chief Anderson said the attack had changed the city forever. St. Cloud is about 65 miles northwest of Minneapolis and has a population of 67,000.
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“Whenever something as awful as this happens, it’s hard for things to be the same as they were,” Anderson said.
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The mall will reopen Monday.
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“Honestly, last night once everything had happened it still felt unreal, it didn’t seem like something that would happen at our mall,” said Bayne, the JCPenney employee. “I’ve been a little shaky … kind of been crying about it a little bit. But it’s definitely something you think about after it happens … It’s really scary to think about and I’m … just thankful to be alive.”
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Other attacks

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The mall stabbing was one of several incidents reported nationwide Saturday.

Sources: Device found at second location

 New York City, Chelsea
Sources: Device found at second location 02:15
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In New York City, an explosion ripped through the Chelsea neighborhood, leaving 29 injured. A second suspicious device was found a few blocks away, authorities say.
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In neighboring New Jersey, an explosion went off in a garbage can on the route of a Marine Corps charity run. Thousands of people were about to participate in the 5K race in Seaside Park. No injuries were reported.
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http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/18/us/minnesota-mall-stabbing/

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Off-duty police officer who killed mall attacker is firearms trainer, marksman
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The off-duty cop who shot the attacker is being hailed for his actions.
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By Paul Walsh Star Tribune
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 — 9:05PM
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Mayor of St. Cloud David Kleis speaks during a news conference at the St. Cloud Police Station on Sunday, September 18, 2016. Photo by Leila Navidi, Star Tribune
The off-duty police officer who confronted and fatally shot the man suspected of stabbing nine people in a St. Cloud mall was roundly praised for split-second heroics that likely saved others from harm.

As a onetime police chief early this decade in nearby Albany, Jason F. Falconer was careful Sunday afternoon not to impede the nascent investigation into the attack Saturday night at Crossroads Center, violence that federal authorities are treating as a potential act of terrorism.

“I’ve been trying to stay away from it all, for the time being,” said Falconer, a medal-winning marksman who operates a firearms training business in neighboring Waite Park.

Falconer said he was unharmed during the confrontation, but he had no further comment.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said at a news conference Sunday that Falconer’s “life was clearly in danger” during what had been an uneventful shopping trip for the part-time officer in Avon, Minn.

Kleis said video from inside the mall shows Falconer shooting once and the attacker falling and getting back up three times. At another point, the man lunges toward the officer with a knife.

“Officer Falconer was there at the right time and the right place,” Kleis said. That place, where the assailant died, was inside Macy’s.

St. Cloud Police Chief William Anderson said “this could have been much, much worse” if not for Falconer’s “swift and direct” response to the chaos.

Along with being president and owner of Tactical Advantage and Tactical Advantage Firearms Training, the 43-year-old Falconer’s professional bio notes that he has assisted St. Cloud State University with law enforcement training “in the disciplines of decision shooting and dynamic entry” in realistic situations. He says his training is also beneficial for “responsible citizens” who might find themselves in life-threatening peril.

Falconer, who lives just outside of St. Cloud, was a multi-medal recipient in 2012 when St. Cloud hosted the Can-Am Police-Fire Games.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Sunday afternoon that he is “deeply grateful to the heroic law enforcement officer, whose swift response prevented an even worse attack.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, “While we will learn more about the facts surrounding this horrific attack today, one thing we know for certain this morning: Due to the courageous actions of an off-duty area police officer, the good work of first responders, and the reaction of those present at the mall, lives were saved.”

Kurt Daudt, the Minnesota House speaker who lives about 40 miles east of the mall, said, “We are grateful for his heroism.”

http://www.startribune.com/praise-as-hero-comes-quickly-to-off-duty-officer-who-killed-st-cloud-mall-attacker/393899411/

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One Response to “Islamic State claims responsibility for Minnesota mall attack — He was a “soldier of the Islamic state” — Off-duty police officer who killed mall attacker is firearms trainer, marksman”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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