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Ohio State knife attacker ‘nice guy’ but unknown to many

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Somali-born student who injured nearly a dozen people in a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University showed few signs of bitterness despite what must have been a difficult early life and even danced onto the stage when he graduated from community college.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan was fatally shot by a university police officer when he refused to drop his knife during Monday’s attack. Those who knew him say he always said hello to his neighbors in the low-rent apartment complex where he lived with his mother and siblings on the city’s west side.

The 18-year-old stopped in frequently at a nearby convenience store for snacks and attended a local mosque.

He had graduated with honors from Columbus State Community College last May, earning an associate of arts degree. A video of his graduation ceremony shows him jumping and spinning onto the stage and smiling broadly, drawing laughs, cheers and smiles from graduates and faculty members.

He transferred to Ohio State to get his bachelor’s degree and gave an interview to the university’s student newspaper in August, saying he was looking for a place to pray openly and worried how he would be received.

Yet leaders of the mosque say they don’t remember Artan, and Ohio State’s Muslim and Somali student groups say he wasn’t affiliated with their organizations.

“None of us could recognize his face,” said Horsed Noah, director of the Abubakar Assiddiq Islamic Center, a mosque around the corner from Artan’s apartment.

Artan was not known to FBI counterterrorism authorities before Monday’s rampage, Angela Byers, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Cincinnati, said Wednesday.

On the day of Monday’s attack, Artan got ready to attend classes as always, even dropping his young siblings off at their school first.

“He woke up and he went to school,” said Hassan Omar, a Somali community leader who spoke with Artan’s mother Monday, hours after the attack.

The first time she knew something was wrong, Omar said, was when police showed up at her doorstep.

Sometime that morning, Artan bought a knife at a nearby Wal-Mart — authorities don’t know yet whether it was the one used in the attack — and posted a series of Facebook rants showing he nursed grievances against the U.S., according to Columbus police and the FBI speaking at a Wednesday news conference.

After arriving on campus, Artan drove his car over a curb and into a crowd of people, then got out and started slashing at people with a knife. He was shot to death almost immediately by an Ohio State officer after refusing to drop the weapon, according to the university.

In those Facebook posts, Artan railed against U.S. intervention in Muslim lands and warned, “If you want us Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks, then make peace” with the Islamic State group.

Artan came to the U.S. in 2014 as the child of a refugee. He had been living in Pakistan from 2007 to 2014, according to a law enforcement official. It’s not uncommon for refugees to go to a third-party country before being permanently resettled.

Artan arrived in Dallas with his mother and six siblings on June 5, 2014, according to Dave Woodyard, CEO at Catholic Charities of Dallas, which briefly offered aid to the family.

Woodyard told the Texas television station KXAS that the Somali family arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from Pakistan through New York’s Kennedy Airport.

The organization gave the family shelter and aid as part of the government resettlement program, he said. The group’s records show the family received shelter for 23 days before leaving for Ohio.

Columbus has the second largest Somali population in the U.S. after the Twin Cities.

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that Artan “should not have been in our country.”

Authorities say that Artan and his family were thoroughly vetted before coming to the U.S., and that Artan underwent a second background check when he became a legal permanent resident in 2015.

Columbus State said he had no behavioral or disciplinary problems while he was there from the fall of 2014 until this past summer.

He started at Ohio State in August as a business student studying logistics management.

He was personable and willing to be interviewed and photographed, said Ohio State student reporter Kevin Stankiewicz.

Jack Ouham, owner of a market near Artan’s apartment, saw Artan almost every day when he stopped in for snacks but never alcohol or cigarettes.

He was never angry, Ouham said.

“Very nice guy,” he said.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press reporters John Seewer in Toledo; Tami Abdollah, Alicia A. Caldwell and Eric Tucker in Washington; and Kantele Franko and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus.

Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.

The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.

The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.

Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.

By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.

The sisters attended high school in Staunton.

The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”

The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.

“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”

Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in Norway.

Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.

Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.

“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”

His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.

When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”

It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.

“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.

“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”

Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.

When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.

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