The 20-year-old Minneapolis man who slashed two brothers inside Macy’s at the Mall of America last fall declared that he was answering “the call for Jihad” on behalf of ISIS when he pleaded guilty.
Mahad A. Abdiraham, 20, admitted last week in Hennepin County District Court to two counts of felony first-degree assault.
The charges stem from his stabbing of 19-year-old Alexander Sanchez and 25-year-old John Sanchez, both of Minneapolis. The younger brother suffered injuries to his head that will leave scars and cuts to his arms that went “to the bone,” and he needed a blood transfusion, according to charges. His brother needed dozens of stitches to close his wounds, the court filing said.
The charging document did not describe a motive but suggested Abdiraham has had psychological difficulties. Last year, he was arrested on suspicion of stabbing two staff members with a pen at an inpatient psychiatric unit.
During his guilty plea, however, Abdiraham read a statement that explained devotion to ISIS was his inspiration.
“I went to Mall of America to answer the call for Jihad by the Chief of the Believers, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi — may Allah protect him — and by the Mujahiden of the Islamic State [ISIS]. … I am here reaffirming that it was indeed an act of Jihad in the way of Allah.”
Abdiraham then issued this warning: “I want the reason for my attack to be clear to this court and to the public, so that you may understand that you will never be safe as long as your country is at war with Islam. And that the threat of death [or] imprisonment will never deter us from fighting for the sake of Allah.”
This is the second case to surface in the past week in Twin Cities courts of local violence influenced by international events. On Jan. 17, a 19-year-old former student at St. Catherine University allegedly set eight small fires in seven buildings across the St. Paul campus in retaliation for U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.
The prospect of November’s stabbings at Macy’s and the fires at St. Catherine’s being motivated by global terrorism raises the possibility of the defendants being prosecuted in federal court.
Jeffrey Van Nest, spokesman for the FBI in the Twin Cities, said Monday that “we are aware of both of those cases and the reporting that is out there. But at this time, we’re not in a position to provide additional details.”
Another attack in Minnesota said to be motivated by international terrorism occurred in September 2016 at Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, where 22-year-old Dahir A. Adan stabbed 10 people before an off-duty police officer fatally shot him inside Macy’s.
The FBI quickly categorized those stabbings as an act of terrorism, and a news agency speaking for ISIS took credit for the bloodshed.
Cindy Leon, an aunt of the brothers stabbed at the Mall of America, told the Star Tribune that “this evil human being was trying to kill Alex and John because of his stupid beliefs. I want the world to know the truth. … Everyone needs to know this was a terrorist attack.”
Leon said the brothers have been unable to go back to work in the family’s roofing business and have long recoveries ahead.
Alex Sanchez “can’t move one side of his face” and is undergoing physical and psychological therapy, she said. John Sanchez has limited use of a thumb and lingering pain in his back after needing dozens of stitches, she added.
Leon was in the courtroom during Abdiraham’s statement, and said to him once he was within earshot, ” ‘Don’t you feel something?’ And he just laughed.”
Alexander Sanchez had come to Macy’s with other family members on Nov. 12 and exited the dressing room to show them a pair of pants. He returned to the dressing room as Abdiraham was standing nearby.
After Alexander Sanchez tried to push past Abdiraham upon exiting the room, Abdiraham started slashing him with a knife with an 8-inch blade.
John Sanchez and another family member stepped in. The older brother grabbed at the knife and was cut on his hands and back while eventually subduing Abdiraham with the help of others.
In the arson incidents at St. Catherine, suspect Tnuza J. Hassan, of Minneapolis, told police that “she wanted the school to burn to the ground and that her intent was to hurt people,” according to the complaint charging her with first-degree arson.
Hassan said similar attacks happened on “Muslim land,” and no one cared whether Muslims were hurt, the criminal complaint continued. She also allegedly told police and fire investigators, “You guys are lucky that I don’t know how to build a bomb because I would have done that.”
Hassan allegedly told police that she had written a letter to her roommates containing “radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate,” the complaint said.
Books, a chair, toilet paper and sanitary napkins were among the objects set on fire, said St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gaede and a university spokeswoman. No injuries were reported.
Hassan remains jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 28.
With the Mall of America defendant’s guilty plea behind him, Abdiraham awaits sentencing on Feb. 16. The plea deal calls for him to serve a total of 15½ years for both counts. With credit for time in jail since the attack, Abdiraham would spend the first 10¼ years in state prison and the balance on supervised release.