ISIS claiming attacks reflects influence obsession

2016-09-20 13:48
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Chicago - ISIS militants rarely miss a chance, however tenuous the link, to claim at least partial credit for apparent terrorist attacks on US soil, from June's deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, to the stabbing of 10 people in a Minnesota shopping mall on Saturday.

They're eager to precisely because they apparently haven't carried out carefully planned attacks here and because, in terrorism circles, your influence is often ranked by numbers of attacks, terrorism experts say.

"If they can't claim attacks, they can't get recruits and can't raise money," according to Dan Byman, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Some militant groups, including al-Qaida, are more reluctant about associating themselves with attackers unless it is clear they adhere to their core beliefs, Byman said. But ISIS appears to be less discriminating, requiring little information about attackers, said Karen Greenberg, the director of the Fordham Law School's Center on National Security in New York.

"If they find out the person is Muslim - that alone might be enough for them to claim credit," she said.

Other groups may also pause to gauge whether an attack crossed certain lines of brutality, something that Byman said isn't an issue for ISIS, whose calling card has been extreme violence.

An ISIS-run news agency claimed on Sunday that the attack at the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, was a "soldier of the Islamic State who had heeded calls for attacks on nations in the US-led anti-ISIS coalition”. But authorities say there is no sign yet that the attacker, identified by his father as Somali immigrant Dahir Adan, was radicalised or communicated with any terrorist group.

The speed with which ISIS weighed in may also say something about a competition for recruits between the Middle East-based ISIS and the east Africa-based militant group al-Shabab, which has recruited Somali-Americans from Minnesota with some success in recent years, but has seen allegiances switching increasingly from al-Shabab to ISIS, Greenberg said.

No credit claimed for bombings

No militant group has claimed credit for the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey. A naturalized US citizen from Afghanistan who lived with his Muslim family was captured on Monday after being wounded in a gun battle with police.

ISIS has claimed at least partial credit for at least four attacks in the United States over the past two years, including the Minnesota attack, according to the Center on National Security.

Aside from Minnesota, the others are:

— June 12 attack on the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse by an American-born Muslim Omar Mateen. ISIS claimed partial credit via one of its news services the day after he fatally shot 49 people, according to the centre. During the attack, Mateen offered allegiance to ISIS during a 911 call.

— December 2, 2015, attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead. The centre said ISIS claimed credit days after news reports said alleged attackers Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

— May 3, 2015, attack by two gunmen in Garland, Texas, during an exhibit of images of the Prophet Muhammad. ISIS claimed responsibility on Twitter and through its news services.


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