FBI head: Extremism apparent influence in St. Cloud mall attack

Injuries reported at a St. Cloud shopping mall.
People stood near the entrance on the north side of Crossroads Center mall between Macy's and Target Sept. 17 following a stabbing rampage that wounded 10.
Dave Schwarz, St. Cloud Times via AP

Updated: 3:03 p.m. | Posted: 1:17 p.m.

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the man who stabbed and wounded 10 people in a central Minnesota mall before he was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer appears to have been inspired, at least in part, by extremist ideology.

While testifying for hours before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, Comey was asked whether authorities had confirmed that the attack earlier this month in a mall in St. Cloud was an act of terrorism. Comey responded that the FBI is "still working on it," but that it looks like Dahir Ahmed Adan, 20, appears to have been motivated "by some sort of inspiration from radical Islamic groups."

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He said investigators are not yet sure which groups may have inspired Adan or how, adding that investigators still are reviewing Adan's electronics.

Minneapolis FBI spokesman Jeff Van Nest declined to elaborate on Comey's comments when reached by phone Wednesday. He said he'd let the FBI director's statement speak for itself.

Authorities say that on the night of Sept. 17, Adan wore a security guard uniform and went to Crossroads Center mall armed with what appeared to be a kitchen knife. In an attack that took just minutes, he stabbed or cut 10 people before he was shot and killed. None of his victims' injuries were life-threatening.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson has said Adan made at least one reference to Allah during the stabbings and asked a victim if he or she was Muslim before attacking.

The Islamic State-run news agency claimed Adan was a "soldier of the Islamic State" who had heeded the group's calls for attacks in countries that are part of a U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. But it wasn't immediately known whether the extremist group had planned the attack or knew about it beforehand.

Comey told the House committee that the group's claim "isn't dispositive for us because they'll claim responsibility for any savagery they can get their name on."

The FBI has said previously that it was investigating the attack as a potential act of terrorism and that authorities were following up on all leads to try to determine what motivated Adan, who was Somali. The investigation includes talking to his associates and looking at his background, social media accounts and electronic devices.

If the mall stabbings are ultimately deemed a terrorist act, it would be the first carried out by a Somali on U.S. soil.

Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali community, with census numbers placing the population at about 57,000. Young Somalis have been a target for terror recruiters. Since 2007, more than 20 young men have joined the militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. In addition, roughly a dozen people have left to join militants in Syria, and nine Minnesota men face sentencing on terror charges for plotting to join the Islamic State group.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Florida Republican, asked Comey if Minnesota was the top source of U.S. fighters for the Islamic State group. Comey said he wasn't sure, but that this "sounds about right."

Comey said he suspects one reason is because Minnesota is one of the few areas in the country with a large concentration of people who may be susceptible to terror recruiting. Still, he said, the number is small, noting there aren't many Islamic State fighters from the U.S.

Stopping recruiting has been a high priority in Minnesota, with law enforcement investing countless hours in community outreach and the state participating in a federal project designed to combat radical messages.