(Reuters) – A man fatally stabbed two people aboard a Portland, Oregon, commuter train when they tried to stop him from harassing two women who appeared to be Muslim, police said.
The attack on Friday afternoon unfolded hours before the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims observe a daily religious fast.
The incident began when the man started shouting ethnic and religious slurs at two women who appeared to be Muslim on a MAX train at the Hollywood Transit Station, the Portland Police Department said in a statement. Three men who intervened were stabbed, two fatally.
The attacker, 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian of Portland, was arrested shortly after he left the train, police said.
Christian was booked into jail on two counts of aggravated murder and additional charges of attempted murder, intimidation in the second degree and being a felon in possession of a restricted weapon, police said. He was ordered held without bail.
In a statement responding to Friday’s attack, the Council on American-Islamic Relations blamed an increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the United States in part on 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.
Following the attack, police said one of the men died at the scene while another died at a hospital. The third man was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Witnesses told police two young women on the train during the attacker’s rant and the violence that followed were possibly Muslim. One wore a hijab.
The women left the train before officers arrived, police said, adding that detectives wanted to speak with them.
Portland police did not immediately identify the victims.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Chopra and Tom Brown)