Attack on Berlin Christmas market claimed by Islamic State

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The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has released a short statement claiming responsibility for the attack on a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead and dozens more wounded yesterday. Amaq’s message, which was released on its website and via social media channels, doesn’t provide any details about the identity of the driver of the large lorry that was plowed into the market.

Amaq cites a “security source” within the so-called caliphate, as saying that “a soldier of the Islamic State…carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting nationals of the international coalition countries.”

So far, German authorities have been unable to identify the individual or group responsible. Earlier today, German officials released a Pakistani refugee who had been accused of driving the truck. “The investigation up to now did not yield any urgent suspicion against the accused,” various news outlets quoted the prosecutor’s office as saying.

The language employed by Amaq is nearly identical to previous claims of responsibility after terrorist operations in Europe, the US and elsewhere. The Islamic State has consistently described individual or small groups of terrorists as its “soldier(s).” Amaq frequently argues that these terrorists lashed out in response to the group’s calls for retribution against the nations participating in the international coalition fighting against the jihadists in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

For example, Amaq’s statement after a terrorist drove a truck into a crowd on Bastille Day in July in Nice, France was almost exactly the same. That attack left 86 people dead. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Islamic State claims its ‘soldier’ carried out Bastille Day attack in Nice, France.]

The jihadists have called for more slayings using vehicles. For instance, the third issue of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine contained an article (“Just Terror Tactics”) advocating for the use of vehicles in terrorist operations. An image of a rental truck was displayed next to a picture of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a photo of the aftermath in Nice.

“Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner,” the article in Rumiyah read. “This was superbly demonstrated in the attack launched by the brother Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel who, while traveling at the speed of approximately 90 kilometers per hour, plowed his 19-ton load-bearing truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, harvesting through his attack the slaughter of 86 Crusader citizens and injuring 434 more.”

“Vehicles are like knives, as they are extremely easy to acquire,” Rumiyah advised would-be jihadists. “But unlike knives, which if found in one’s possession can be a cause for suspicion, vehicles arouse absolutely no doubts due to their widespread use throughout the world. It is for this obvious reason that using a vehicle is one of the most comprehensive methods of attack, as it presents the opportunity for just terror for anyone possessing the ability to drive a vehicle.”

Rumiyah’s editors went on to suggest targets, including “outdoor markets.” “In general,” the Islamic State advised, “one should consider any outdoor attraction that draws large crowds.”

In fact, one of the Islamic State’s online handlers encouraged a teenage Afghan refugee to use a car instead of a knife during an assault on a train in Würzburg, Germany earlier this year.

On July 18, an Afghan refugee named Riaz Khan (also known as “Muhammad Riyad”) hacked at passengers on the train with an ax and a knife. As the German press later revealed, Khan was in near-constant contact with a digital operative inside the Islamic State’s home turf in Syria. A transcript of their conversation was first published by Süddeutsche Zeitung and subsequently reproduced by FDD’s Long War Journal. [See: Terror plots in Germany, France were ‘remote-controlled’ by Islamic State operatives.]

During a digital chat with Khan, the Islamic State’s man asked: “What kind of weapons do you intend to use to kill people?”

“My knife and ax are ready for use,” Khan replied.

“Brother, would it not be better to do it with a car?” the Islamic State plotter asked, before suggesting that Khan learn how to operate an automobile. “The damage would be much greater,” he told Khan.

But Khan was impatient, saying he “cannot drive” and “learning takes time.”

“I want to enter paradise tonight,” Khan explained.

And so Khan wounded several people on board the train, but fortunately failed to cause a large number of casualties.

Nearly one week later, on July 24, a Syrian refugee identified as Mohammad Daleel blew himself up outside of a music festival in the German city of Ansbach. Daleel, too, had been in regular contact with an online handler.

The Islamic State’s technique for guiding terrorists has become so common across Europe, especially in France and Germany, that officials now describe these operations as being “remote-controlled.”

All of the details concerning the driver in Berlin are yet to be confirmed and reported. It remains to be seen if this person, or group of people, was also “remote-controlled,” or had any other concrete ties to the Islamic State.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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10 Comments

  • Ken says:

    I don’t understand why the U.S. military doesn’t use the same tactics that the terrorists use. In other words, instead of big clunky military might use the same subterfuge that the terrorists are using. Sneak into their camps and pull the same stunts they pull. Disrupt their society. Put them in terror. Scare them. Never let them rest.

  • Kate says:

    My hope for 2017 is that the West will start doing a better job fighting back at home. Part of this fight is ideological, as this global jihad movement is about power, not faith. Western governments need to reaffirm the fact that everyone has a right to practice his or her own faith, but no-one has the right to limit the faith or freedom of speech of others, even if it offends somebody. On a more practical level, I hope that the West will be able to prevent similar attacks in the future by hardening the targets and improving intelligence. If we stop publicly celebrating holidays, we are letting the terrorists win. We cannot allow that to happen.

  • Mick says:

    Hi Thomas & Bill : Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
    Great reporting and research which enjoy your outstanding interviews every week on The John Batchelor Show (Outstanding). Firstly, the politicians (reduction of armed forces and security over the years especially in the EU) on the left wing open borders schemes have helped in these horrid attacks due to lack of screening and vetting IDs which is going to get worse we must be vigilant and take all measures to stop all terrorist groups and state sponsored covert lines which are helping ISIS, Al-Qaeda, The Taliban (Af-Pak) and Lashka-eTobia from operation sectors with in these states. Second point the funding of these terror groups must stop and those who are caught aiding them should be taken to task especially through puppet funding (Saudi & Turkey 373 Billion in business loans) how much is ending up in doggy arrangements which the Saudi authorities don’t know about and what are the safe guard measures put in place (also foreign aid) . Third point, ISIS has had freedom of movement for many years and those who think Al-Qaeada is not working with ISIS are dreaming. Take the gloves off Germany (EU) send a stronger message to those states supporting ISIS and other terror groups . The US and its allies can’t do all the fighting and yes Russia is killing terrorist but also innocent Muslims giving ammo to ISIS. Islamic world has to stand up to those in their own back yard who are killing innocent Muslims as well of a racist world view. No doubt they will be planning more spotlight attacks in 2017 and they are spreading in Indonesia and Malaysia. De-radicalisation of any terrorist groups be it left or right wing religious or not will not work all the time and sometimes pre-strike is the only option. Sunni-Shia civil war will spread to EU and other places if we don’t wake up.

    Lest We Forget

  • Steve S says:

    These people are crazy and living in 600AD

  • Arjuna says:

    [Hopefully the LWJ Gods will deign to publish my comment.]
    Nothing lone-wolfy about this Tunisian loser except that he attacked the truck alone. He was a known associate of terrorists, he was associated with a “violent act” according to police, he was on a watchlist and his phone was supposedly being monitored (so he used Telegram and WhatsApp on a burner). Now we get to watch the sad circus of another European capital in chaos as they try to find one escaped madman in a sea of them (Islamist confreres).
    DDoS attack on the authorities/investigation is a new adjunct. Their attacks are becoming more and more complex. I think the Polish driver saved a ton of lives. Look at the trajectory. The terrorist driver had the length of the Nice Promenade and only hit a tenth of it, probably bc a wounded Pole fought like a wildcat.
    God bless the victims and their families.

  • Paddy Singh says:

    The problem with the West and in particular with the EU is that they are so condescending with refugees because of the wars they started or allowed to happen, that terrorists and murderers like Isis have taken full advantage to creep in through open doors. Market thought that she would be acclaimed as another ‘prophet’ by the majority who happened to be Muslim. And no one here is prepared to try and sentence those who were responsible for these wars to bring about our type of democracy which the Middle East and African countries are not used to. They have their dictators like we have our Junkers, Shlutzs etc

  • Patrick Evans says:

    Europe learning the tragic consequences of immigration and asylum policies…

  • Timothy says:

    The suspect has been identified, Tunisian..and as usual, he has been under surveillance for a couple of months and then all of the sudden, dissapeared under the radar. Same narration, same motives. Who cares? The important thing as long as we can blame it on Muslims, it’s all good.

  • Arjuna says:

    Abu Walaa was in touch w the Tunisian truck boy AND the Paris and Brussels attackers. He (AW) is like Islamic State’s Al Awlaki. He should be denied every comfort in prison until he volunteers everything he knows.
    9/11 was planned from Hamburg by a known cell.
    Get on the ball Krauts! This is a major CT fail.

  • wiggum says:

    This whole case just shows how rotten the system in Europa is.

    The prime suspect (a known criminal) traveled to Italy from Tunisia in 2011, gave a false name and age and claimed asylum. He took part in a violent riot in a asylum center and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. In 2015 he was released and should have been deported but Tunisia just did refuse to cooperate so he was back on the streets again.

    He then traveled to Germany and claimed asylum there again. There he was involved in more crimes like assaults and even a stabbing !

    Also, he tried to recruit people for Jihad and even attempted to buy a gun from a undercover police officer !

    Not only that, he is known to have used 20 different names and also claimed to be Syrian.

    Ok, so we have a known criminal Tunisian asylum seeker who already was denied asylum in Italy, living in Germany on welfare and still committing crimes…a guy even on the watchlist of police since months (because his Jihadi leanings)…

    You know what they found in the truck he used for his attack ?

    A document about the “suspension of deportation” !

    Well Europa, you asked for it, there you have it. Thanks Merkel !

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