ST. CLOUD, Minn. — An ISIS-run news agency claims the man who stabbed and wounded eight people at a mall in Minnesota before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer was a “soldier of the Islamic State.”
The ISIS-run Rasd news agency reported the claim on Sunday, saying the attacker had heeded calls from the extremist group for attacks in countries that are part of a U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.
It was not immediately clear if the extremist group had planned the attack or even knew about it beforehand. ISIS has encouraged so-called “lone wolf” attacks. It has also claimed past attacks that are not believed to have been planned by its central leadership.
St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said the attacker, who has yet to be identified, was wearing a security uniform and was armed with a knife, reports CBS Minnesota. Anderson said the attacker made at least one reference to Allah and asked a victim if they were Muslim.
Police say they are not ready to call the attack an act of terrorism.
“We will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson said. “We will be transparent.”
All eight victims from Saturday’s attack were treated at a hospital for wounds that weren’t life-threatening and all but one were later released.
Ashley Bayne, who was visiting a friend at the J.C. Penney store in the malldescribed the scene to CBS Minnesota.
“I went closer to the mall entrance by J.C. Penney’s and I was looking at some jeans and all the sudden people were just running in chaos,” Bayne said. “They were screaming, ‘Someone’s stabbing people in the mall,’ and people were just really frantic and were running.
“There were so many cop cars just responding to the area,” Bayne said. “When I got in my car to get out people were speeding out of there. By the time I left my coworker had texted me saying they had all gone into lockdown in the mall. There were no notifications in the mall at all, it was just people running and screaming.”
Harley and Tama Exsted of Isle, Minnesota, who were in St. Cloud to watch their son play in a college golf tournament, were in the mall when the incident occurred.
“All of a sudden I heard pop, pop, pop,” Harley Exsted told the St. Cloud Times. “I thought someone tipped over a shelf. All of a sudden these people started running. I just saw everybody running our way.”
Copyright 2016 WFMY