An ISIS propaganda video showing Las Vegas Strip and San Francisco landmarks has been released by the Islamist extremist group the day after an attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that claimed the lives of 22 people and left 59 injured.
It’s not the first time that an ISIS propaganda video has featured iconic locations in Las Vegas. Last year, shortly following the Pulse nightclub attack, another such threat was made by members of ISIS.
Coming almost exactly a year after the deadly attack on the Orlando LGBT club, some analysts believe the video may have intentionally meant to encourage lone wolf attacks on gay pride events in San Francisco. The video featured images of Omar Mateen, the man who carried out that attack, followed by praise for the “martyr’s” actions.
Former San Francisco FBI agent and security expert Jeffrey Harp told the San Francisco CBS affiliate that he did not believe the video was a threat of an impending attack, but rather a way to push possible lone wolf actors to carry out their own.
While Las Vegas does not have the same “LGBT mecca” reputation as San Francisco, it does represent many of the aspects of Western culture repudiated by ISIS. Since the city appeared in last year’s propaganda video, local journalists have asked the question, “How susceptible is Las Vegas to an ISIS attack?”
Some residents think the threat is overstated. Mark Rumpler, a man who has worked on the Las Vegas Strip for several years, told Fox 5 that he was reassured by quick responses from local law enforcement to non-ISIS violent incidents.
“One day last summer a man attacked the people, the tourists with a knife, and I helped to stop him. The police were here in one minute, and I swear it’s because of the surveillance.”
While this level of security may help prevent knife or firearm attacks, it still leaves a blind spot for a style of terrorism that would be particularly devastating to the Las Vegas Strip: vehicular homicide. In December of 2015, a woman — who was not ISIS-affiliated in any way — drove up on the sidewalk and injured nearly three dozen people. Sheriff Joe Lombardo told Las Vegas Now that the possibility of such a scenario has put Las Vegas local law enforcement on edge. He has suggested a series of preventive metal posts be put up along the Strip to prevent a vehicle from reaching the sidewalk.
“It could be a lightweight vehicle or heavy truck as they did in Spain… They talk about knives, and they talk about anything at your disposal, in particular a vehicle. You have access to vehicles all day… I anticipate that by the end of the year, we will have something in place.”
Las Vegas lawmakers have also been responsive to threat of an ISIS attack on the strip. Last year, the More Cops Tax passed unanimously in the county legislature, allocating funds to place an additional 68 officers in the area, reported NBC 3.
Apart from the loss of life, an attack on the Las Vegas Strip would be devastating for Nevada’s economy, especially for the city of Las Vegas. Cities like Paris have suffered a large drop in tourism following major attacks. Las Vegas currently attracts around 36 million visitors a year, just behind Orlando, New York City, Miami, Anaheim, and Chicago. In fiscal year 2016, the state registered a gaming win of $11.1 billion. According to Ballotpedia, its tourism industry is especially important because the state takes in 80 percent of its tax revenue from sales tax and gross receipts, making outside traffic essential to balancing the budget.
Any such attack could also have larger political implications for Las Vegas. A growing immigrant population with its stronghold in Las Vegas has gradually tipped the swing state further to the left in the last few years. According to the Washington Post, Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has taken in a largely centrist approach to Syrian refugees, sending a letter to then-President Barack Obama in 2015 asking for stricter vetting processes instead of refusing them altogether like some other state governors.
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada estimates that around 3,000 refugees are taken into Las Vegas every year, with the majority coming from Cuba, followed by Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Do you think the ISIS video propaganda foretells an attack on the Las Vegas Strip?
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]