Somali community leaders in St. Cloud, Minnesota say they are “shocked” at the news that a Somali-American man allegedly stabbed nine people at a shopping mall on Saturday evening.
A community elder, Jama Alimad, told VOA Somali that the community is worried of the impact of this incident.
“This is a very serious matter, that this community is the target of an investigation into terrorism is a serious matter,” he said.
Alimad said the community fears some kind of retaliation.
“I’m a Somali, I’m a refugee, I’m black, and I am Muslim. All the Somali community here are the same. We don’t know what will happen,” he said. “They are afraid, they are shocked, and they don’t know what will happen. There is a lot of worry and fear.”
Alimad, who is also a friend of the family, is one of the community elders who has visited the family of the 22-year-old suspect Dahir Adan.
Adan is accused of stabbing nine people before he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer at the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud.
“We visited them, we consoled them. In the same way we expressed our sympathy to the victims. We see that it’s important that we give them privacy and respect in that they are grieving,” Alimad said. “Their feeling is that of parents who just, suddenly, lost a child, they are human beings. We have to give the time they need to bury their child. We have to be careful in the way we are treating them.”
Alimad knew the suspect, Adan, from an early age. He says that as an elder and a parent, he used to see Adan in various places, including schools and in boys and girls clubs.
“He was a young man who came here when he was about three or four months old. He finished his elementary education here and he was in his third year in [St. Cloud State] university,” he said. “He was a calm person, level headed, we have never heard complaints or problems about him in school.”
Alimad also says he knows the family of the suspect very well.
“His father is a nice man, he is one of the town’s community elders who believes in unity, he is someone who did a lot of good things that community needs. They are a good family who have lots of children, good children.”
Adan had also worked as a security guard on a part-time basis. Alimad says he last saw the suspect recently and had a brief conversation.
“The last time I saw him was recently, we greeted each other. I asked him are you doing ok? Are you going to university? He said yes. I asked him are you still working? He said he does.”
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the stabbings as a “potential act of terrorism.”
Police Chief William Blair Anderson said the assailant made references to Allah during the knife attack at the Crossroads Center, and even asked if one person was a Muslim.
Alimad said he saw Adan in a different picture.
“The picture I have about him does not reflect what he is being accused of,” he said.
Another community activist, Abdul Kulane, told VOA that Adan was known to the community, and was a “smart and reliable person.”
Kulane said he did not know the motives or the full picture behind the attack. He said he thought the stabbings had no links with terrorism, despite a claim by an Islamic-run news agency that the attack was carried out by a “soldier of the Islamic State.”
Adan’s father, Ahmed Adan, told the Star Tribune newspaper that police informed him Saturday night that his son, Dahir, had died at the mall. He said police didn’t mention the attack, but they seized photos and other materials from the family’s apartment.
Minnesota is home to the United States’ largest concentration of Somali immigrants and refugees. St. Cloud is about 110 kilometers northwest of Minneapolis, the state’s largest city.