An Ohio man whose Middle Eastern restaurant in February was the scene of a frightening machete attack that left four people wounded believes he was the target of a terrorist.
Hani Baransi, an Israeli-born Catholic whose Nazareth Restaurant and Deli is adorned with the Jewish State’s flag, told FoxNews.com he suspects a “lone wolf” was behind the attack, a conclusion FBI and police have so far not made publicly. The assailant, Mohamed Barry, a Muslim from the West African nation of Guinea, was shot dead by police in a confrontation outside the restaurant shortly after the attack.
"It was a targeted killing," Baransi, 50, told FoxNews.com. "It was definitely an assassination attempt. This person went through town looking for someone like me."
In addition to believing his restaurant was singled out for the Israeli flag outside, Baransi confirmed reports that Barry came in the restaurant prior to the attack and asked staff members about their boss.
"One of the waitresses told him I was from Israel,” Baransi said. “He came back 30 minutes later and started attacking customers."
Neither local police nor the FBI, which is investigating the attack, has confirmed or ruled out a terror motive. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, authorities were careful to say Barry was not believed to have acted on the orders of a terror organization, but did not preclude the possibility he was a self-radicalized “lone wolf.”
But with no answers three months later, Baransi believes authorities are downplaying the threat of Islamist terror on U.S. soil.
“It’s become a joke,” Baransi said. “I’m sick of it. All I want is answers. They have denied me every time I have asked questions.”
Barry stormed into the restaurant Feb. 11 at about 6 p.m. with a machete and attacked a couple. When bystanders came to their aid, he turned on them, wounding two, including musician Bill Foley, who was performing for patrons at the time. Barry fled in a car, but was chased by police, culminating in the fatal encounter.
Baransi was questioned by investigators looking for a possible motive. While likely routine, combined with the subsequent lack of answers from authorities, it left Baransi angry at law enforcement and even City Hall, which he also accuses of papering over terror ties. He said he spent $100,000 cleaning up and fixing the restaurant after Barry’s rampage, although he said his customers have remained loyal.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther’s office issued a statement saying he tried to talk to Baransi and was rebuffed.
“The City of Columbus was deeply saddened by the February attack at Nazareth Restaurant,” the statement said. “Members of Mayor Andrew Ginther’s cabinet went to the restaurant and met with the owner, Hani Baransi, in the days immediately following. The mayor tried to arrange a personal call with Mr. Baransi less than a week after the attack. Mr. Baransi rejected the invitation.”
Columbus Police, who said in February “there was no rhyme or reason to the attack,” declined to comment further on the case. FBI officials referred FoxNews.com to an initial statement the bureau released in February.
"At this point in the investigation, we have developed no information that Mohamed Barry was working with, or directed by, anyone in conducting this attack,” read the statement. “We will continue to work with our partners to gather information about Barry's life and any motives behind this heinous act.”