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UAE police detain suspect in U.S. woman killing

The suspect stabbed the American woman in an Abu Dhabi mall

Published: Updated:

The UAE police arrested the main suspect in the stabbing to death of an American woman in an Abu Dhabi mall, the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

In a statement posted on the ministry's Twitter account, Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, deputy prime minister and minister of interior, announced: “The face-covered suspect is now in police custody.”

“With God’s grace & exceptional follow-up by UAE leaders, our security forces have detained the face-covered criminal,” read a follow-up statement.

Police said the suspect was a 38-year-old woman, who they have dubbed "The Reem Island Ghost" after the location of the shopping center where Monday's attack took place.


"We are witnessing an unprecedented, heinous crime in the UAE," Sheikh Saif said, threatening "deterrent punishment against whoever attempts to tamper with UAE security."

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Colonel Rashid Borshid of the Abu Dhabi police told a news conference on Thursday that the suspect also placed a makeshift bomb outside the front door of an apartment of an American doctor living in the UAE less than two hours after Monday's killing. The bomb was dismantled and no one was hurt.


Asked if police saw the sequence of events as a terrorist attack, Borshid said: "This is under investigation now, and I cannot say yes or no now."

The victim of Monday's killing was identified by ABC News and other U.S. media as kindergarten teacher Ibolya Ryan, the Romanian-born mother of 11-year-old twins. ABC said she previously taught at a school in Colorado.

In CCTV footage released on Wednesday, the assailant is seen entering the shopping mall shortly after 1:00 pm and then rushing from the restroom about 90 minutes later, as panicked shoppers scrambled.

The footage was accompanied by pictures of a bloodied kitchen knife and trails of blood on the floor of the restroom.

Complete footage released by the ministry on Thursday showed the fully covered woman entering a building in Abu Dhabi, pulling a wheeled luggage case, where she was allegedly hiding a bomb.

The footage then shows a raid on a house where the woman, dressed in pyjamas, was with a man, whom the police handcuffed.

The ministry did not give details on the fate of the man or say if he had a role in the attacks.

It showed several knives and bombmaking materials, as well as traces of blood on the steering wheel of the suspect's car.

Commenting on the arrest, Khaleej Times editor Mustafa al-Zarooni said in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel: “This video shows the boldness of this woman and her intention: the making of the bomb; her entry to the mall in a very unsuspicious manner.”

“I believe the UAE is aware of the dangers, from just being geographically located in such a sensitive region. But the country has readied the security forces in cases of any development in the country. There have been complete preparations to eliminate such actions, and the evidence is her arrest in 24 hours,” he added.

Al-Marooni said the traditional dress of niqab potentially poses a security issue. “The problem with the niqab is that you cannot tell whether it is a man or a woman behind it. The gloves cover fingerprints. So it is a complete camouflage while being in a shopping mall, hotels or even streets...she could commit a crime at any moment. This is the problem that the niqab poses.”

The stabbing took place on the same day as a recording was released attributed to Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the spokesman of the extremist Islamic State group, that urged Muslims to attack Westerners by any means, even if only to "spit on their faces."

The UAE in September joined the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

[With Agencies]