Portland attack: Man slits throats of would-be heroes who stepped in to stop Islamophobic abuse on MAX train

Police say attack is believed to have been racially motivated as the man was heard making racist comments before the stabbing

Caroline Mortimer
Saturday 27 May 2017 16:24
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Portland: Witness describes scene of triple stabbing on train

Witnesses who saw a triple stabbing on a train in Oregon say it may have been racially motivated, after a man who launched into a racist rant against two Muslim women then attacked passengers when they tried to intervene.

The attacker slashed the throats of three people as the Metro Area Express (MAX) train was pulling into a station in the north east corner of Portland – leaving two dead and one injured.

The man was seen hurling racist abuse at two young women – one of whom was wearing a hijab – and then attacked the men when they came to their defence.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene while another died in hospital. The third man was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Police arrested a suspect on Friday afternoon who, they alleged, was seen running from the train, local newspaper The Oregonian reported.

Officers were still working on Friday night to identify those who were attacked.

Before the stabbing, the assailant on the train was ranting on many topics, using "hate speech or biased language," and then turned his focus on the women, Police Sergeant Pete Simpson said.

"In the midst of his ranting and raving, some people approached him and appeared to try to intervene with his behaviour and some of the people that he was yelling at," Sgt Simpson told The Oregonian. "They were attacked viciously."

One witness, Evelin Hernandez,said the man had called Muslim people “criminals” and had said: “Get off the bus, and get out of the country because you don't pay taxes here” before he began his attack.

Police said they were still trying to establish whether the man had mental health issues or if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.

According to police, the two women left the scene before the police arrived and officers are now asking for them or anyone else who may have seen something to come forward.

Sgt Simpson did not give the ages of the pair but described them as "young girls".

In a statement responding to Friday's attack, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that anti-Muslim incidents increased by more than 50 per cent in the United States from 2015 to 2016 due in part to President Donald Trump's focus on militant Islamist groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

"President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

The administration says that while it strongly opposes Islamist militants, it has no quarrel with Islam.

It comes as millions of Muslims mark the beginning of Ramadan – an Islamic holy month which involves dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Additional reporting by agencies

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