The Islamic State terror group claiming credit for Sunday’s shooting in Texas is the latest instance of radical groups raising their profile by taking responsibility for attacks halfway around the world.
Sunday’s attack, quickly claimed by the group as its first attack in the US — thankfully the assailants managed only to injure a security guard before dying to police gunfire — has no clear connection to IS strategists or leaders. But the attack successfully made headlines for the group at a time when it is struggling to conquer new territory in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds. (RELATED: ISIS Claims Responsibility For First Attack On US Soil)
IS has also attempted to distract from its slowdown in the Middle East by boosting publicity for its more far-flung projects, including high-profile murders of Christians in Libya and the signing of a purported franchising agreement with Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
Its justification for claiming responsibility in Sunday’s attack, and calling the perpetrators “soldiers of the Caliphate,” was that they had made public declarations on Twitter of their support for the group. Unlike the Kouachi brothers, the attackers of French magazine Charie Hebdo who had a history of contact with al-Qaida leaders, no evidence has surfaced to support that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were under any direct advisement of IS. (RELATED: ISIS Makes Absurd Baltimore Solidarity Ploys Online)
The group’s announcement came nearly at the same time as Bangladesh began investigating a small group within its own borders for connections to al-Qaida’s local branch, Al-Qaida in the Indian Peninsula. The group perpetrated a series of machete attacks earlier this year which killed outspoken anti-religious bloggers, including one American citizen. (RELATED: Bangladesh Sees Another Anti-Islam Blogger Killed With Machete)
AQIP’s video said that the attacks were “initiated on the orders of our respected leader,” that is, the network’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. A Bangladeshi official acknowledged to The Washington Post that the announcement may have been a ploy for “popularity” among potential sympathizers. If there are links between the murderers in question, called Ansarullah Bangla Team, they are likely to have taken ideological inspiration from al-Qaida, rather than specific tactical plans.
Al-Qaida and IS remain in a tense international “turf war” for control over the global jihadi movement. These attacks and instant claims of responsibility, far from demonstrating their international reach, are attempts to puff up their achievements and brag to their enemies about the extent of their influence — all of which also, experts say, serves them well with donors.
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