Authorities investigating OSU attacker's potential radical ties

Abdul Razak Ali Artan.

CBS News

Last Updated Nov 30, 2016 4:48 PM EST

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The man who went on a rampage with a car and knife at Ohio State University earlier this week, injuring 11 people before he was shot dead by a campus police officer, may have been inspired by ISIS and al Qaeda, the FBI said during a news conference on Wednesday. 

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Anwar al-Awlaki

CBS

FBI special agent in charge Angela Byers said Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been inspired by al Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Reuters reported. Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011. 

On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Reuters reported an ISIS news agency posted a photo of Artan wearing a blue shirt and sitting with greenery in the background. It described him as a soldier of the group, and added the caption: “Brother Abdul Razak Ali Artan, God accept him, implementer of the Ohio attack, a student in his third year in university.”

Investigators have so far found no direct link between the terrorist organization and Artan. ISIS has previously taken claim for attacks that it had no planning nor part in.

Sources previously told CBS News that Artan put an angry message on Facebook before the attack, saying: “America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak.”

What investigators are discovering is a dramatic escalation in his statements online. Hallmark signs, law enforcement officials say, of someone radicalized -- and turning to action.

Law enforcement sources said shortly before the attack, the suspect posted a message or messages on Facebook suggesting that he was disturbed by how Muslims were being treated, CBS News homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reported. Artan reportedly posted: “I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE.”

Officials said Artan came to the U.S. with six family members in 2014 after fleeing Somalia and spending seven years in a refugee camp in Pakistan. CBS News has learned that Artan’s father was abducted in Somalia in 2007 and that is why his family left the country to ultimately seek refugee status in 2012. The family came to the U.S. by flying into New York, then going through Dallas and on to Ohio where they settled.

Artan first attended community college in Columbus where he graduated on the dean’s list. Last August he became a student at Ohio State University where he was interviewed by the campus paper, The Lantern. He complained about what he believed was the media’s negative portrayal of Muslims.
 
“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media...if people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen,” he was quoted as saying. “But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable.”

CBS News has learned that Artan was in the D.C. metropolitan area last week. FBI investigators are trying to piece together what he was doing there. Authorities said he visited a Home Depot style store while in the D.C. area. 

Home Depot said that they couldn’t share details about anything and didn’t want to inadvertently interfere with the investigation.

A law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milion that Artan was was at the Home Depot in D.C. but could not confirm that he purchased a knife at  the time. Investigators discovered he was in the D.C. area through bank records.

The source said that Artan dropped his sister off at high school and then went to Walmart in Columbus where he purchased the knife used in the attack.

One of Artan’s victims, Iraq war veteran and OSU senior Anderson Payne told CBS News that he was trying to help car crash victims when he was slashed. 

“He didn’t say anything,” Payne told CBS News’ Dean Reynolds. “He looked very angry he had just wrecked his car which is normal to be mad. But when he started swinging his knife, I knew it wasn’t an accident.”

A senior U.S. official told CBS News that while they believe that Artan was inspired by radical terrorists, they are still compiling a list of people he may have been contacting. It’s unclear if federal officials have been able to access Artan’s digital devices, but they do have a list of people he was possibly in contact with and are setting up interviews. 

Also Thursday, officials released 911 calls made during the attack. The 911 calls describe panic and confusion on the campus. 

“Yeah I’m on the Ohio State campus, I think there’s been some type of terrorist attack uh…” a male voice says in one of the 911 calls. “Because a guy ran a car through a crowd of students!  He did it purposely.” 

“There’s a man who drove a car through a group of people, he hit an OSU employee, he drove it in to a crowd of people, the car is now sitting in front of the building, the man got out of the car and took off running – I just need an ambulance here right now!” another male can be heard saying on one of the calls.