The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has released a short statement claiming that yesterday’s attack at Ohio State University was the work of its “soldier.” Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali refugee, drove his car into a crowd of people before exiting the vehicle and using a knife to assault his victims. Eleven people were hospitalized as a result. Artan was quickly shot dead by a campus police officer.
Amaq claims that Artan “carried out the operation in response to calls to target the nationals of the international coalition countries.” Amaq has used the same phrasing after previous attacks in both Europe and the US.
For instance, Amaq released a nearly identical statement after another native Somali, Dahir Adan, stabbed multiple people at a mall in Minnesota in September. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State claims its ‘soldier’ was responsible for stabbings in Minnesota.] US officials contacted by FDD’s Long War Journal in October said that Adan’s digital trail was still being investigated.
Prior to his demise in August, Abu Muhammad al Adnani repeatedly called upon the so-called caliphate’s members and supporters to strike the coalition of nations targeting its territory in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Adnani was the Islamic State’s spokesman and oversaw the group’s external operations before he was killed in an American airstrike.
The language in Amaq’s claims is intended to emphasize that the terrorists are acting in accordance with both Adnani’s and the Islamic State’s directives.
Authorities are currently investigating Artan’s life to see if he had any real connections, including online, to the group or was inspired by its propaganda.
CNN has published some of the text that was purportedly found in a Facebook post written by Artan.
“If you want us Muslims to stop carrying out lone wolf attacks, then make peace with ‘Dawla in al sham’,” the post by Artan reportedly reads. “Make a pact or a treaty with them where you promise to leave them alone, you and your fellow apostate allies.” The phrase “Dawla in al sham” is likely a reference to the Islamic State.
The text published by CNN contained other jihadi references. Anwar al Awlaki, an al Qaeda ideologue who was killed in an American airstrike in Sept. 2011, was described as “our hero Imam.” It is not unusual for aspiring jihadists to be influenced by both Awlaki and the Islamic State. This was the case with both the couple responsible for the shootings in San Bernardino in Dec. 2015 and the jihadist responsible for planting bombs in New York and New Jersey in September.
Amaq has repeatedly described terrorists as “soldiers” of the Islamic State
Amaq and other Islamic State propaganda outlets frequently describe the terrorists who carry out such deeds as “soldiers” of the caliphate.
An Islamic State claim of responsibility doesn’t prove that the group had direct ties to the attacker. However, authorities have found that terrorists had digital ties, or were at least inspired by the Islamic State, in a number of cases. Islamic State operatives have also orchestrated a series of plots in the West.
For example, the Islamic State described the May 2015 shooters in Garland, Tex. and the couple who assaulted a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif. as the group’s “soldiers.” The San Bernardino terrorists were also labeled “supporters.”
The shooters in Garland, Tex. reportedly communicated with Junaid Hussain, a key Islamic State operative who was killed in an American airstrike last year. And the husband and wife jihadists responsible for the massacre in San Bernardino pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on Facebook prior to their demise.
The team of jihadists that carried out the Nov. 2015 assault in Paris was hailed as “a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate.” In that case, the jihadists were directly dispatched by the Islamic State’s mother organization in Syria. The Paris attacks were different from the other, small-scale attacks claimed by the Islamic State and carried out by individuals in Europe.
Omar Mateen, who repeatedly pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi the night of his shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fl. in June, was described as a “fighter” for the organization.
Amaq said Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, was “a soldier of the Islamic State.” The same wording was also used to label a young slasher in Würzburg, Germany.
After the Nice, Würzburg, Ansbach (Germany) and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (Normandy, France) attacks, Amaq also emphasized that the men responsible had acted “in response to calls to target countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”
And after the operations in Würzburg, Ansbach, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and Balashikha (Russia), Amaq disseminated videos of the terrorists swearing allegiance to Baghdadi. The videos were recorded beforehand, demonstrating that the jihadists had at least some digital ties to the Islamic State’s operations.
Indeed, European officials discovered that a series of plots have been “remote-controlled” by the Islamic State’s digital operatives. American authorities have also found that the so-called caliphate’s men had virtual connections to a number of recruits who were intercepted before they could carry out their murderous acts.