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Sex ad links attacker, victim in Fargo slashing

By Archie Ingersoll, Forum News Service 

FARGO – The 18-year-old accused of Wednesday’s slashing and attempted robbery in south Fargo met his victim through an online sex ad, a method he’s used to lure a series of other robbery victims, according to police.

Fargo police Chief Keith Ternes said detectives are investigating three cases in Fargo, including the one from Wednesday, and two in Moorhead that involved Obsa Ali Omer using Craigslist, an online classifieds site, to find victims. The first of the five cases was reported to Moorhead police in February.

Investigators believe Omer may have other victims who have not come forward, not just in the Fargo-Moorhead area but also in St. Cloud, Minn., and the Twin Cities. Because the crimes span two states, police plan to have prosecutors review the cases to determine if federal charges are appropriate, Moorhead police Chief David Ebinger said.

Ternes, Ebinger and other law enforcement officials held a news conference Thursday at Fargo police headquarters to discuss the investigations and issue a warning about the dangers of sex ads on sites such as Craigslist.

“There are significant risks, public safety risks, when either placing or responding to some of that adult advertising that takes place on some of these social networking sites,” Ternes said.

Police officials said Omer, of Fargo, posted ads or responded to existing ads for men seeking men and men seeking women that used the words “discreet” or “discretion,” with the aim of finding victims who would be less likely to report crimes to authorities. In the cases investigated so far, the victims, all men, have been hesitant to work with investigators.

“If you are a victim, we’re going to ask you to come forward and you assist us in this investigation,” Ebinger said. “Nobody should be the victim of a violent crime.”

Fargo police said Omer connected with his most recent victim, a 41-year-old man, through a Craigslist ad. The victim picked up Omer on Wednesday afternoon in a pickup truck. After driving about a half mile, Omer tried to rob the driver, and an altercation ensued while the truck was stuck in traffic in a construction zone on 25th Street South near Interstate 94, police said.

Omer allegedly slashed the driver’s arm with a knife and fled, leaving the driver in the truck at 25th and 18th streets. Medics treated the man for wounds that were not life-threatening. It’s not clear if Omer took any cash or valuables from the victim, Ternes said.

Within about an hour, officers found Omer in a nearby apartment building. As of Thursday, he had not been charged, but he’s expected to face counts of robbery and marijuana possession, police said. He was being held without bail at the Cass County Jail, awaiting his first court appearance.

Although weapons were used in other robberies, including a gun in one case, Wednesday’s attack is the only one under investigation in which the victim was injured, Ternes said.