A man wielding a machete entered a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday evening and began attacking diners, managing to injure four before he was shot and killed by police in a car chase. The restaurant, called Nazareth, is owned by an Israeli Christian Arab.
The attacker was identified as Mohamed Barry, 30, a Columbus resident. “[He] immediately began swinging a machete at customers and employees inside,” Mohamed Barry,aid, CNN reported. “There was no rhyme or reason as to who he was going after as soon as he walked in, according to some of the witnesses.”
The four wounded were taken to Grant Medical Center. One of the victims, a 54-year-old man, was reported by Police Chief Kim Jacobs to be in critical but stable condition. A man and a woman, both aged 43, were in stable condition, and the fourth victim, a 43-year-old man, was treated and released from the hospital.
Barry fled in a vehicle after the machete attack, but police found him after and pulled him over, at which point he emerged from his car holding a machete and another knife. He lunged at the police officers and was shot and killed by another officer in a police cruiser.
Barry was a Somali native with criminal history, a law enforcement official told CNN. His vehicle had been flagged by authorities prior to the attack, leading Columbus police to call in federal anti-terrorism officials. The attack is currently under investigation by the FBI in attempts to discover Barry’s motive. One hypothesis is that Nazareth was targeted because Barry believed that its Israeli owner, Hany Baransi, was Jewish.
Baransi, whose family is Israeli, Christian, and Arab, said he believed his restaurant was targeted because he is Israeli, though he has been in the US for decades.
“Nazareth restaurant has been a Columbus mainstay now for 30 years,” Larry Levine, a Columbus resident and founder of IsraelWatch, told Breaking Israel News. “The owner is a Christian Israeli who moved to the United States to live the American dream.
“When you enter the restaurant you immediately see a picture over the counter of a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew all sitting together,” he continued. “That is the tone and tenor of the place.” The food, he added, is delicious as well.
Levine expressed horror at the attack, but not shock. “As someone who has been aware of and spoken out against Muslim extremism for years I am not surprised by it,” he said. He mentioned that a large community of Somali refugees is located five miles down the road from Columbus, and though it is “largely peaceful”, there is a “dark cloud over their community as some mosques have been radicalized.”
Levine, an Israel activist, said that while he doubted authorities would “officially” acknowledge that the incident was related to terror, the verdict was clear to him.
“I’m sure they won’t just come out and say it is terrorism,” he told Breaking Israel News. “They will make the typical statements like he was a loner, mentally disturbed, not representative of Islam, etc. That is what they will say. When this happens often as is now becoming the case ‘isolated instances’ are no longer isolated. Loners are no longer alone.”
He said that the attack should serve as a wake-up call for American communities, which until now have felt relatively safe from the Islamic terror spreading in the Middle East and Europe. “Now that it appears that we have the reality that Israel, France, England and so many have faced around the world in our own backyard, it is time for our community to wake up.”
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