Pakistan’s small, tight-knit, Somali community was in shock this week after hearing of the violent rampage of one of its former members in the U.S.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who was shot and killed Monday after allegedly attacking fellow students in Ohio, lived for several years in Islamabad with his family, until he moved to the U.S. in 2014.
According to police, he jumped a curb in his car, rammed a group of pedestrians and then stabbed a number of individuals with a butcher knife at Ohio State University.
“I found out that it was a guy I knew. I couldn’t believe it. He was not like that as I remember him. Abdul Razak was very good. Not radical,” said Mohamed Abdi, 23, a medical student from Somalia based in Pakistan met Mr. Artan’s family while they lived in Islamabad.
Mr. Abdi said the Somali community in Pakistan was stunned when they heard about the incident. He described Mr. Artan and his family as “normal” Muslims, who would pray and fast, following regular religious tradition.
“Absolutely, totally in shock. He was a good guy. We couldn’t believe it. He was not like a terrorist,” Mr. Abdi said. “I thought: how could he do this? They [the U.S.] gave him residence, gave him a chance to go to university, gave him a life. Then why?”
There are a few hundred Somalis in Pakistan, a mixture of students and refugees who mostly live in the capital Islamabad, said community members. They congregate in small groups in ramshackle cafes in the evenings in some middle-class neighborhoods of the city. There are smaller numbers of Somali students living in the larger cities of Lahore and Karachi.
“Everybody [in the community] is surprised and very sad to hear about what happened,” said Fahad Husain, another Somali university student based in Islamabad.
Other Somalis were reluctant to speak to press and attempts to contact the embassy of Somalia in Islamabad were unsuccessful.
Mr. Abdi said that Mr. Artan’s family were official refugees from Somalia in Pakistan, with United Nations support, and they had applied for resettlement in the U.S.
He said that it was rumored in the Somali community in Pakistan that Mr. Artan had faced racism on campus in the U.S., but he added: “Maybe they’re making an excuse for him, maybe it’s true, I don’t know.”
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