US & Canada

Why IS claim should be treated with scepticism

Suspect Elton Simpson Image copyright ABC
Image caption Elton Simpson had talked about going to Somalia to fight with militant Islamists

The claim by Islamic State that it has carried out its first attack on the United States is a controversial one and for good reason.

The attempted attack on the Muhammad drawing contest is obviously not the first jihadist violence to take place on the US mainland.

If Islamic State is able to prove that it planned and directed it - rather than just staking a claim after the event - it would be a significant development.

But the claim is as likely to be one of convenience.

The announcement in Arabic, made on Islamic State's own radio station, claimed it was behind Sunday's armed attack. It promised more to come.

But there is some question over how much of an actual role the group really had, beyond lending its encouragement.

IS 'sympathisers' in US

  • Two Illinois cousins allegedly plotted to attack a National Guard building where one trained as a soldier
  • New York man is shot and killed after attacking and wounding two police officers with an axe
  • Oklahoma man charged with murder after beheading female colleague shortly after being suspended from his job
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Investigators collect evidence at the gunmen's vehicle

The two perpetrators were able to acquire high-powered assault rifles for the attack, yet they themselves were killed by a traffic policeman with a pistol, implying they were not that well-trained.

There is no evidence so far of any kind of organisational, financial or logistical link between the gunmen in Texas and IS leaders based over in Syria and Iraq.

So the most plausible explanation is that the attackers were radicalised jihadists, operating largely on their own, and that once they had opened fire IS was able to make an opportunistic claim of convenience.

Such a declaration issued after the event generates both fear and publicity for IS, who we already know are media savvy.

And it fits the message they want to give Americans, that they are not safe on their own soil, and more is to come.

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