A terrorist opened fire at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida during the early morning hours today, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens more. It is the most devastating mass casualty shooting in American history.
US officials have identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, a 29 year-old American citizen from Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State, released a statement within hours of the massacre claiming that a “fighter” from the group was responsible.
“The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wound was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” Amaq’s statement reads. The claim of responsibility was released in both English and Arabic online.
Amaq’s claim does not indicate that Mateen was directed by the Islamic State, or that that the organization had foreknowledge of his plans. It is possible that he was inspired by the so-called “caliphate,” but wasn’t in contact with Islamic State members or leaders beforehand.
Amaq was also the first Islamic State mouthpiece to say that the group’s “supporters” carried out the San Bernardino shootings in December of 2015.
Many details about the Orlando shootings remain to be confirmed. Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN earlier today that authorities believe Mateen swore allegiance to the Islamic State before opening fire.
If this detail is verified, then it is consistent with what the Islamic State tells its followers to do. The Islamic State emphasizes the necessity of obedience to its “caliphate” and warns that disobedience is a sure path to the fires of hell.
A graphic (seen on the right) included in Dabiq’s 12th edition cites Islamic texts to make this point. A Muslim must either join the state or nation of believers by swearing bay’ah to the leader, or die in a state of ignorance.
“Whoever withdraws his hand from obedience will meet Allah on Resurrection Day without having any excuse,” one saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed, and reproduced in Dabiq, reads. “And whoever dies without having a bay’ah binding him, dies a death of jahiliyyah [state of ignorance].”
According to multiple reports, one or both of the San Bernardino shooters swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s enterprise either during or just before their day of terror.
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