COLUMBUS, OHIO - The 18-year-old who attacked a crowd at Ohio State University this week was buried Thursday in an unusually low-profile Islamic funeral in Columbus.
Abdurazak Ali Artan was shot and killed by an campus police officer after driving his car over a curb and stabbing several bystanders on Monday, injuring at least 11 people.
Authorities believe he was inspired by terrorist groups abroad to carry out the attack, but they are still investigating.
Only relatives and a few members of the local Somali community attended the hour-long funeral process that started with washing Artan's body and then wrapping it in white cloth. The congregation later recited the Janazah, the Islamic funeral prayer to seek pardon for the deceased.
Sheikh Husein Guled Aden, the Imam of Masjid At Taqwa in Columbus, was the man who conducted this ritual cleaning of Artan’s body inside a private room in the mosque.
“The body of Artan had two gun shots in the head and the elbow and several stitches on the chest,” he said.
He said the mother, Rahma, asked to see her son and kiss him for the last time.
"She was crying and her face was covered with tears, and said, 'I love you my son. I know you are not a terrorist. I raised you with love and always hoped a bright future for you. May God bless you,'” said Sheikh Aden.
Artan’s mother, six siblings and other relatives appeared shocked and somber at the funeral. They refused to talk on the record with reporters about their son.
But one of Artan’s uncles, who asked not to be identified, told VOA about the family’s stance.
“You see a small number of people showed up here and the funeral has been kept as low profile as possible within the family, and there are no press involved,” he said. “There is [an] investigation going on, so the family decided not to speak before the final result."
As national media networks and local press waited outside the main entrance of the Masjid Ibnu Taymiyah and Islamic Center North Columbus, Artan’s body was carried to the city’s Muslim cemetery.
Aden, a geologist and a medical student at Ohio State, said he has never seen a funeral process as “a low profile as that of Artan” in the Columbus-area community of Somali refugees and immigrants, which numbers as many as 40,000 people.
“I think it could be several factors. First, it is a winter time. Second, because of the nature of the funeral, which involves the dead body of someone accused of involving terror attack," Aden said. "Thirdly, I think people avoided to attend the funeral fearing that their faces would appear from the TVs, as reporters with cameras gathered at the mosque and finally, it is evidence showing the extent of the shock and the fears the community feels after the attack.”
Family and community members are shocked that federal authorities suspect terrorism as a possible motive for Artan’s attack.
Mohamed Salah, a professor at Ohio State University, says Artan's friends and family members described him as an “optimistic student with dreams."
"They told me he was very optimistic and wanted to educate himself in order to help his community,” Salah said. “We were all shocked over what happened to the student victims at the university and his death."