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Obama praises off-duty officer's actions in Minnesota attack

CHICAGO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday praised an off-duty police officer for saving lives when he shot dead the suspect in a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall for which the radical group Islamic State claimed respon...

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President Barack Obama speaks about last Saturday's bombing in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood in New York September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CHICAGO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday praised an off-duty police officer for saving lives when he shot dead the suspect in a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall for which the radical group Islamic State claimed responsibility.

"Thanks to the quick action of a brave off-duty police officer, the suspect was killed and we avoided more people being hurt," Obama said of the officer, who works for the police department in nearby Avon, Minnesota.

Avon Police Chief Corey Nellis said it was "divine intervention" that Jason Falconer, a part time officer who is a fire arms instructor and competitive shooter, was at the Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud on Saturday when the attack occurred.

Nellis told a news conference on Monday that Falconer needed time to cope. "He, too, is a victim in this situation."

Obama, in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, told reporters that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was treating the mall attack as a "potential act of terrorism."

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He said there was no known connection between that attack and bombings in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend.

A bomb exploded on Saturday evening in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, wounding 29 people.

Earlier on Saturday, a bomb exploded at a charity race in New Jersey. No injuries were reported.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said the mall reopened on Monday with increased security measures.

Chris Nelson, a spokeswoman for St. Cloud Hospital where the stabbing victims were taken on Saturday, said on Monday that all them had been treated and released.

The attacker in Minnesota was identified by local media as Dahir A. Adan. Authorities have declined to name the suspect because of the ongoing investigation.

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By Timothy Mclaughlin

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