(NEW YORK) — Mental illness has emerged as a potential factor in a weekend attack on two strangers in Virginia, even as federal authorities continue to look at whether the knife-wielding assailant may have been inspired by ISIS.
The FBI has been aware of the alleged attacker, 20-year-old Wasil Farooqui of Roanoke, for months, after he traveled to Turkey and tried to enter Syria, where ISIS is recruiting and inspiring sympathizers from around the world, according to sources familiar with the case.
ABC News was told that the FBI is now analyzing Farooqui’s laptop and cellphone, looking for any links to ISIS. It’s unclear whether the FBI has found any such evidence, but federal authorities have yet to take over the entire case, suggesting the FBI so far has not found sufficient reason to take on a bigger role.
One source familiar with the case said Wednesday that authorities are still in the “assessment phase” and not ready to rule anything out.
Nevertheless, Farooqui was “hearing voices” in his head minutes before he allegedly attacked a man and woman at a Roanoke apartment complex, reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar” — God is great — as he “cut the male victim’s throat” and stabbed them multiple times, according to witness accounts and newly obtained court documents.
Authorities were looking at whether Farooqui may have been trying to behead his victim, ABC News was told after the attack. But on Tuesday, a Roanoke County Police spokeswoman said her department concluded it “did not appear to be an attempt at a beheading.”
Farooqui left his home Saturday night “to clear his head,” and after parking at the apartment complex about a mile away, the voices in his head told him “that he was stupid [and] they also told him to attack someone,” according to the court documents, citing what Farooqui allegedly later told police.
“He doesn’t know who [his victims] are or why he attacked them,” said an affidavit filed by police as part of the court documents.
Farooqui allegedly followed the couple into their apartment before stabbing them, according to the court documents.
“There was a large amount of blood inside the apartment just inside the door and large amounts of blood outside leaving a trail to where the victims were located,” the affidavit said.
After the attack, an injured Farooqui allegedly went to his father’s tobacco store, and his father brought him to the local hospital — the same hospital where his alleged victims were being treated.
Farooqui was then arrested by police on charges of assault with malicious wounding, and he is being held without bond at the Western Virginia Regional Jail.
The FBI and Roanoke County Police “are working closely on the case … to investigate the nature of the attack,” and the FBI has not “taken over the county’s piece of it,” police spokeswoman Amy Whittaker said Wednesday. “Our detectives continue to investigate, file search warrants, etc.”
FBI Director James Comey has said that many of the “troubled souls” attracted to the ISIS message online suffer from mental illness.
Farooqui is due in court again next week.
His attorney, Sheila Moheb, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
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