Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State, released a short video featuring a teenager identified as “Muhammad Riyad.” According to Amaq, Riyad was responsible for yesterday’s attack on a train in the German city of Würzburg.
Riyad brandishes a knife throughout the two minute video. He calls on all Muslims to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, saying that the Caliphate has now been resurrected in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. The teenager adds that the Muslims can join one of the Islamic State’s so-called provinces around the world, including in Libya.
At least several people were wounded when the assailant attacked them with both an axe and a knife, leaving a bloody scene on the floor and seats of the train. German media reported that the terrorist shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great,” as he struck, according to BBC News.
Press reports have identified the attacker as a 17 year-old Afghan refugee, but offered few other details.
Earlier this morning, Amaq also released a written statement saying the assault was the work of an Islamic State “soldier.” Citing an “inside source,” Amaq reported: “Individual who carried out the axe attack in Germany was a soldier of the Islamic State who executed the operation in response to calls to target nations in the coalition fighting the Islamic State.”
Nearly identical language was used in Amaq’s claim of responsibility for the July 14 massacre in Nice, France. In addition, the Islamic State’s media arm often refers to the jihadists who strike in the group’s name as “soldiers.” [See LWJ report, Islamic State claims its ‘soldier’ carried out Bastille Day attack in Nice, France.]
The video released by Amaq was obviously recorded before the train’s passengers were slashed. Riyad speaks directly into his own digital camera. The fact that Amaq was able to release the video within one day of the incident suggests that Riyad was in touch with the Islamic State’s media operatives, or knew someone in the Islamic State’s network who could send it to Amaq.
Some accounts were quick to argue that the axe and knife assault was the work of a so-called “lone wolf.” But that hasn’t been established. The crude operation did not require any real expertise or sophisticated planning, but the Islamic State’s video shows that Riyad had at least one tie to the group, even if it was only a digital one.
In mid-June, Amaq promoted a similar video from another Islamic State loyalist, Larossi Abballa. The production was recorded at the scene of a brutal double murder in Magnanville, France, which is less than 40 miles north of Paris. Abballa stabbed a police officer and his partner to death, recounting the horror show for the Islamic State’s audience and the rest of the world. The couple’s son was saved when French forces stormed the home.
Abballa was arrested in 2011 on terror-related charges after he traveled to Pakistan to meet with one or more al Qaeda operatives. He was convicted by a court and sentenced to a few years in prison. He was ultimately freed and pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.
Like Riyad, Abballa was killed at the scene of his terrorist assault.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.