(NEW YORK) — The family of an American woman fatally stabbed at an Abu Dhabi shopping mall believes she was targeted because she was a teacher.
Ibolya Ryan, who was the mother of 11-year-old twin boys and a 13-year-old daughter, had been teaching in the United Arab Emirates for more than a year and was also mentoring other teachers.
“Ibi was a vivacious and gracious person. She was a loving mother who dedicated her career to helping children all over the world as a Special Education teacher. She will be deeply missed,” the Ryan family said in a statement released today.
“As a family, we are wounded and reeling, but are focusing on our primary concern — to ensure the well being of her three children, who are mourning for their mother,” the family said.
The family is working with Ryan’s employer, Footprints Recruiting, to try to raise money to help the children get home and to provide a foundation for their future education.
Ryan, who is of Hungarian descent but was born and raised in neighboring Romania, and lived in Colorado, will be buried in Romania, where she was born and raised, the family said.
Abu Dhabi police told ABC News that the suspect accused of stabbing Ryan to death was not working alone.
The suspect was identified as Dalal al Hashemi, a 38 year-old UAE citizen of Yemeni origin, police said. She was arrested Thursday in connection with the teacher’s murder and is also accused of planting a bomb in front of an Egyptian-American doctor’s home.
Police said they do not believe Hashemi, 38, was a so-called “lone wolf.” Authorities told ABC News that other people were arrested at Hashemi’s house, but their connection to the attack was not yet known.
Her home was described as a “base of operations,” but it was not clear what groups — if any — she may have been connected to.
The motive for the stabbing wasn’t immediately known, but the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi issued a warning on Oct. 29 to U.S. citizens about an anonymous web posting that urged attacks against American teachers, but noted no specific threats.
The surveillance cameras’ eerie images show the culprit entering the mall on Dec. 1 as well as the crime scene. In the video, the weapon shown appears to be a large kitchen knife. The surveillance video ends with onlookers pointing at the suspect and trying to stop the person, who fled to an elevator and left the mall.
Abu Dhabi police also released video showing what they claimed was a bomb at the home of an Egyptian American doctor, who was identified only the initials M.H. and his age, 46.
One of the doctor’s three children noticed the strange object in front of their door, and the family called a security guard to investigate. The guard informed police, authorities said.
The device consisted of “small gas cylinders, a lighter, glue, and nails to cause maximum injuries when detonated,” a police statement said.
The security guard said a woman wearing gloves and an abayah had come to the house minutes before the incident, dragging a black suitcase, authorities said. She went to the floor where the doctor’s family lives and then quickly left the building, he said.
The doctor also said he had seen a woman wearing an abayah at his home a few days earlier, authorities said.
Authorities also released video of a woman they said was the suspect in Ryan’s stabbing. The suspect confessed to the crimes, they said.
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