The terrorist group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting on Sunday, a massacre that has so far claimed the lives of 59 people, with 527 more injured, many of them critically.
Although law enforcement officials dismissed the ISIS claim, which was offered with no evidence, the terror group repeated its assertion on Tuesday, going as far as to label 64-year-old shooter Stephen Paddock a “Soldier of the Caliphate” and assigning him an honorific “kunya” — a “war name” of the sort used by ISIS to publicly glorify terrorists the group considers its most celebrated and important members, according to report in London’s Independent newspaper.
The new ISIS claims, which were immediately discounted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, were seen by terror experts as an unusual step for the notorious, Syria-based terrorist organization, which does not often repeat its claims of responsibility for terror attacks, nor offer such claims without also providing evidence to back them up.
Also on Tuesday, an ISIS-linked media outlet known as the al-Battar Foundation released a new video claiming that the Las Vegas attack was “revenge” for U.S. attacks against ISIS in Syria. View that ISIS propaganda video below. The ISIS video commences at the 2:08 mark of the following clip.
ISIS in its statement gave Paddock, who committed suicide as police closed in on his room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas Sunday night, the name “Abu Abd al-Bar al-Amriki.”
The group claimed that Paddock — a retired accountant who was reportedly wealthy and known in Las Vegas as a frequent high-stakes gambler — was actually a secret convert to Islam who responded to a call from ISIS to attack western targets.
“After careful observation of gatherings of the Crusaders in the U.S. city of Las Vegas, one of the soldiers of the caliphate (Abu Abd al-Bar al-Amriki, may Allah accept him) lay hidden armed with machine guns and various ammunition in a hotel overlooking a concert,” the new ISIS statement reads. “He opened fire on their gathering, leaving 600 killed and injured, until his ammunition was finished and he departed as a martyr.”
The new ISIS claim left experts on international terrorism puzzled. In its numerous past claims of responsibility for attacks, they say, there has been at least some connection, however minimal, between ISIS and the perpetrators. For example, in the 2015 massacre of 16 in San Bernardino, California, the attackers were reportedly inspired by online ISIS propaganda — though they had no known direct contact with the terror group itself.
Some terrorism experts believe that by its attempt to link itself to the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, ISIS is attempting to rebuild its “faltering brand.”
“To some degree you need to be able to attempt at least to show that you are still effective and the effectiveness they have seen in terms of attacks on the U.S. have been somewhat limited,” University of Maryland terrorism researcher Herbie Tinsley told BuzzFeed.
But Graeme Wood, author of the book The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that law enforcement authorities may have been too quick to dismiss the ISIS claims of responsibility for the Las Vegas attack. Though Wood did not say that he believes the ISIS claims, a flatly false claim would be out of character for the terror group, he wrote.
“The idea that the Islamic State simply scans the news in search of mass killings, then sends out press releases in hope of stealing glory, is false,” Wood wrote on Monday. “A false claim of credit in Las Vegas will effectively shred the Islamic State’s news agency’s credibility. It will become a news agency that was once reliable, and now associates itself indiscriminately with heavily armed crazy people in casinos.”
But Wood also notes that most ISIS claims of responsibility are accompanied by some sort of evidence linking the group to a specific terrorist attack. Such evidence may include a video recorded by the perpetrator prior to the attack or even real-time images of the attack taken by a camera attached to the shooter’s rifle scope and uploaded to the internet.
No such evidence has yet surfaced in the case of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock. In what may simply be a coincidence, however, the Las Vegas mass shooting took place within days after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message calling on followers to “intensify one attack after another against the infidels.”
[Featured Image by John Raoux/AP Images]