The Somali-born Ohio State University student accused of committing a car-and-knife attack on campus Monday reportedly came with his family as a refugee, but it is unclear what precisely the family was fleeing.
Federal law and international treaties set out specific criteria for qualifying as refugees. One of those requirements is that the would-be refugee apply for protection in the first country he reaches. But Abdul Razak Ali Artan and his family reportedly were living in Pakistan for years before coming to America.
“To be a refugee, one should be fleeing an area that is under duress.”
“To be a refugee, one should be fleeing an area that is under duress,” said Kyle Shideler, director of threat assessment for the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.
Shideler added that he has no specific knowledge about Artan. But he said the questions are worth asking.
“What program permitted his entry into the United States?” he asked.
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Ian Smith, investigative associate with the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said moving to another country does not necessarily preclude applying for refugee status in the United States as long as the applicant is not “firmly settled” in that country. That is a term, Smith said, that courts have used a variety of criteria to define.
“He could have still applied for refugee status in another country if he did it in a short amount of time,” he said.
On Monday, according to law enforcement authorities, Artan rammed a relative’s car into a small crowd and then started slashing with a butcher knife. He injured 11 people before a campus police officer shot him dead.
NBC News, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Artan left his native country in 2007 for Pakistan and came to America seven years later. He graduated from Columbus State Community College and then enrolled at Ohio State, complaining to the student newspaper on the first day of school in the fall about anti-Muslim bias.
Although investigators have cautioned against jumping to conclusions about Artan’s motive, evidence pointing to Islamic extremism seems strong. Minutes before the attack, he posted a photo to his Facebook page that included a screed complaining about treatment of Muslims around the world. It cited the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and called radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki a “hero.”
It stated: “I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that.”
The post referenced a “boiling point” caused by treatment of Muslims in Burma and a threat to “kill a billion infidels” in order to save a single Muslim.
Counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, called it “textbook” terrorism during a Tuesday appearance on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
Shideler said Artan’s motive does not seem in doubt.
“He makes direct references to the Islamic State, and he made an attack consistent with the methods directed by the Islamic State,” he said.
The Islamic State’s magazine, Rumiyah, in October published instructions for jihad by Muslims who don’t have guns or other weapons.
Why the reluctance to label the attack as terrorism?
“It has to do with political correctness, in part,” Shideler said.
He said it also is part of the current administration’s strategy of trying to equate all violent acts.
“We know what his motives are. He told us what they were,” he said. “This is not the act of a mentally ill man.”