An Islamic State-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 IS-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-IS coalition.
It was not immediately clear if the extremist group had planned the attack or even knew about it beforehand. IS 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.
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.
St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said during a news conference that eight people were taken to St. Cloud Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following the attack first reported about 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the Crossroads Center. One person was admitted. No further details were released.
Anderson said an off-duty police officer from another jurisdiction shot and killed the unidentified suspect, who was armed with a knife and wearing a private security firm uniform at the time of the attack. Anderson did not say where the off-duty officer serves.
Anderson also said the suspect made at least one reference to Allah during the attack and asked at least one person whether they were Muslim.
But Anderson declined to call the attacks an act of terrorism, saying the motive for the attacks isn’t known yet. “We will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson said. “Starting tomorrow, things won’t be the same here.”
ISIS Claims responsibility for Minnesota stabbing attack. pic.twitter.com/BD95ssZRoy
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 18, 2016
Local police had three previous encounters with the suspect, most for minor traffic violations, Anderson said, adding that the FBI had offered to help with the investigation.
Authorities “have no reason to believe” anyone else was involved in the attacks, Anderson said. He said the stabbings occurred in several places within the mall, including corridors, businesses and common areas.
“The entire mall is an active crime scene,” Anderson said.
The mall remained on lockdown following the incident, but authorities expected those remaining inside to be released early Sunday. Photos and video of the mall taken hours after the incident showed groups of shoppers waiting to be released, including some huddled together near a food court entrance.
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.”
There also were reports of some shots fired during the attack.
The couple were unharmed and said they helped another woman who was running from the scene to her car.
Adonis Samuels, 42, of St. Cloud, was outside the mall where his wife Roxanne is employed as a manager at Clinique at Macy’s.
“She called me on the phone and told me she was hiding under the counter with a customer,” Samuels said. She later called and said she was safe in a secured area.
Samuels remained outside, watching for her. He said he’d seen her through the glass doors at one point so he knew she was safe.
St. Cloud is about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis.