When a Somali-born refugee attacked a crowd of pedestrians at the Ohio State University, first by running into them with a car and then attacking them with a butcher knife, attention almost immediately turned to whether the suspect had terror ties.
According to the BBC, 18-year-old Abdul Razak Ali Artan was killed by a campus police officer less than a minute after his rampage began, but not before he could injure 11 people.
It’s unknown whether he was radicalized or — if he was — where he was radicalized. However, a terror case from the Bush administration provided a very plausible suspect in a mosque just a mile from the Ohio State campus.
According to The Daily Caller, three men — Nuradin Abdi, Iyman Faris and Christopher Paul — were convicted or pleaded guilty to terrorism charges during the 2000s as part of a terror ring at the Masjid Omar mosque in Columbus.
Abdi was convicted in a plot to attack an Ohio shopping mall. Faris, meanwhile, had planned to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. Paul was convicted for training terrorists to carry out bomb attacks on American citizens overseas.
And this was hardly “lone wolf” stuff: The New York Times reported that federal authorities had alleged that Faris had even gone so far as to meet with Osama bin Laden back in 2000.
All three had attended the Columbus mosque. However, according to The Columbus Dispatch, even lawyers for the men involved conceded that more were involved in their group.
“There were nine or 10 people that knew each other and would meet each other,” Mahjir Sherif, Abdi’s attorney, told the Dispatch back in 2007. “I’m sure with the government they are guilty by association.”
“A lot more than three performed in their jihadist group,” said David Smith, one of Faris’ lawyers.
And that wasn’t all. In 2014, according to NBC News, three individuals who had attended or had connections to Masjid Omar went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria.
When WCMH-TV caught up with Masjid Omar president Basil Gohar, he insisted that the mosque had nothing to do with it.
“We share the shock and horror of these actions, and we wish that we could have found out or stopped them,” Gohar said. “It’s quite unfortunate what these people went and did, but the fact they attended has no bearing on their actions. Anyone can come to our mosque. We have an open door policy. It’s not possible for us to screen someone’s ideology.”
That, of course, makes six people connected to terrorism in the space of a decade. We don’t know how closely Artan was connected to them, or even if he was.
However, it’s a connection that the media ought to be working on, given the proximity of the mosque to the campus he so brutally attacked on Monday morning.