Islamic State called upon followers weeks ago to commit terrorist attacks such as the one which killed 50 in Orlando during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
A recording released in May appeared to show ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani encouraging followers across the globe to engage in terrorist attacks against Western countries during the holy month. This year, Ramadan runs from June 5 to July 5.
Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, pledged himself to ISIS over a 911 phone call prior to engaging in his assault. It is unclear whether he was part of an ISIS cell or was inspired to engage in the attack as a so-called “lone wolf,” though he is known to have bragged about his ties to terrorist organizations.
Mateen was a “known quantity” to law enforcement officials prior to the Orlando attack, having been investigated as a “person of interest” by the FBI in 2013 and 2014.
ISIS has regularly engaged in offensive operations during Ramadan since it began its rise in late 2013 and early 2014. Its parent organization, al-Qaida in Iraq, also had a habit of engaging in massive attacks during the time period.
Typically, ISIS Ramadan offensives have been focused on gaining territory in Iraq and Syria. But with the group consistently losing ground in its so-called “parent tumor” in the Middle East, a focus on encouraging attacks on Western targets abroad makes sense.
“As the Islamic State’s social media output declines, messaging about the historical achievement of the caliphate rings ever more hollow and voices of dissent multiply. That makes a surge in terrorist attacks more necessary for the group to maintain its status in the marketplace,” wrote Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon in a January report for Westpoint’s Combating Terrorism Center.
ISIS has reportedly taken credit for Mateen’s attack, though the group’s level of direct involvement still remains unknown.
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