DID a jihadi terror attack occur recently in the city of Fargo, North Dakota?
Fargo’s main claim to fame until now is that it provided the setting and name for the 1996 film, a black comedy directed by the Coen brothers which led to four TV series. Its success and wide distribution helped put the city on the map, the distinctive Upper Midwest accent of leading characters becoming the source of much good-natured humour.
Fargo is now in the news again, and no one is laughing. On the contrary, many are crying and grieving for a beloved son, grandson, brother, fiancé, nephew, cousin, friend, colleague, brother-in-arms.
On Friday, July 14, 37-year-old Mohamad Barakat opened fire with a double-magazine long rifle on firefighters and police investigating a routine traffic accident and attending to victims at the scene. As far as we know, Barakat, a native of Syria who was given asylum in 2012 and became a US citizen in 2019, was not involved in the crash.
Why he opened fire remains a mystery. What we do know is that one officer, 23-year-old Jake Wallin, was killed and two colleagues critically injured in the hail of bullets unleashed by Barakat, his rate of fire accelerated by the use of a ‘binary trigger’ attached to his rifle. The young woman driving one of the cars involved in the accident, Karlee Koswick, was shot in the legs. She now lies in a hospital bed, heavily sedated, and it will probably be months before she is able to walk again.
Mercifully, she is still alive, as are Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes, although both were seriously injured by Barakat’s bullets. Karlee is only 25 and Dotas and Hawes are also young and presumably very fit and will, please God, heal quickly and be restored to full health and mobility.
But Officer Jake Wallin is now dead after serving his community and to his country, including in the National Guard in Afghanistan and Iraq. There would have been many other casualties and possibly fatalities had not a fourth police officer, Zachary Robinson, a very brave man indeed, not shot Barakat dead after repeatedly warning him to put down his weapon and surrender.
The dreadful incident is, as they say in the news media, an evolving story. It has been revealed that Barakat had multiple weapons and explosive devices in his car, including 1,800 rounds of ammunition. When police searched his apartment they ‘found a stockpile of weapons, ammunition and parts to make explosives’. His computer showed that he had searched the internet for terms such as ‘explosive ammo’, ‘kill fast’ and ‘mass shooting events’, in addition to information about a downtown Fargo street fair. Everything indicates that Barakat was planning a mass shooting and was diverted from that goal by the minor car accident he stumbled across and the extraordinary courage and professionalism of Officer Robinson, who prevented the tragedy from getting any worse than it already had.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew H Wrigley said Barakat ‘was driven by hate, driven by wanting to kill’. But whom did he hate, and whom did he want to kill?
Wrigley added: ‘At this point in the investigation, I find his Muslim faith no more notable than my Lutheran faith’. As far as I have been able to tell, this is the first and thus far only reference to Barakat’s religion, a subject studiously avoided by the media since the story broke.
Is it so unreasonable to ask if religion played a role in this atrocity? Is it so ridiculous to ask if this psychopathic individual was motivated by hatred of the infidel and was merely acting in accordance with calls by the Islamic State to Muslims living in the West to ‘strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves’.
No decent person would indict an entire religion based on the behaviour of a fanatical and homicidal few, but only a fool, or an attorney general of an American state, would fail to consider a possible and plausible connection between Islam (or, if you prefer, Islamism) and terrorism. It was followers of Muhammad, not of Martin Luther, who murdered thousands on September 11, 2001, and slaughtered 130 concertgoers at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015, and have committed countless other atrocities in recent years, many going underreported, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.
While we must never jump to conclusions when it comes to assigning motives to the perpetrators of such crimes, at least we should be allowed to consider all the possible reasons that would cause someone to try to kill so many of his fellow men and women, all of them citizens of a country which offered him refuge and afforded him a higher standard of material existence than he would have ever experienced in the Middle East.
I would rather focus my attention on Jake Wallin, a young man who represented what is best and most noble in the American spirit. May he now know the peace that passeth all understanding.
There is a ten-ton elephant in the room that everyone knows is there but whose existence many are unwilling to acknowledge. It would be extremely unwise for us to continue to ignore it.