Islamic State claims its ‘soldiers’ responsible for Barcelona attack

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has issued a short statement claiming responsibility for the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain earlier today. At least 13 people were killed and dozens more wounded when a van was driven through a crowd in the city. The so-called caliphate says that its adherents were responsible.

Citing a “security source,” Amaq claims the “perpetrators of the attack in Barcelona were Islamic State soldiers and the operation was carried out in response to calls for targeting coalition countries.”

Similar wording has been used in previous claims of responsibility. Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani, who was killed in Aug. 2016, and others in the group have repeatedly called on followers to strike those countries participating in the coalition that seeks to dislodge the jihadists from their strongholds. Amaq’s statement didn’t provide any additional details about the driver(s) of the vehicle.

The chaotic scene has led to conflicting reports about what transpired after the terrorist-driven van struck pedestrians on an avenue frequented by tourists.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of similar attacks relying on vehicles as instruments of mass terror. In at least one case, Amaq did not issue a claim of responsibility, but authorities identified the perpetrator as a jihadist affiliated with, or sympathetic to, the Islamic State. The attacks listed below are just those that used a van, truck or other vehicle as the principal weapon beginning in mid-2016.

On June 3, three terrorists attacked London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market, killing eight people and wounding nearly 50 others. They first drove their van into pedestrians on the bridge, then jumped out and made their way to an area filled with restaurants and pubs. The trio wildly stabbed at their victims before being shot dead by police.

On Apr. 7, a 39 year-old Uzbek man named Rakhmat Akilov drove a hijacked beer truck into another crowd of people in Stockholm, Sweden. Four people were killed and more than a dozen injured. “We know he has shown sympathies to extreme groups, among them ISIS,” said Jonas Hysing, the national police spokesman, according to CNN. “We won’t comment any further on that.” Akilov’s lawyer subsequently said his client had admitted to committing a “terrorist crime.” However, Amaq apparently did not issue a claim of responsibility for Akilov’s assault.

On Mar. 22, Khalid Masood, a 52 year-old man who was born in the UK, drove his vehicle into a crowd near the British parliament. He then jumped out and assaulted others with a blade. Masood killed several people and wounded dozens before he was shot dead by a police officer.

On Dec. 19, 2016, Anis Amri, a Tunisian, drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, leaving a dozen people dead and wounding more than 50 others. Amaq News Agency subsequently released a video of Amri pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Amri was killed during a shootout with Italian police in Milan on Dec. 23.

On Nov. 28, 2016, another similar assault was carried out at Ohio State University, when a Somali refugee, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove his car into a crowd of people before exiting the vehicle and using a knife to assault his victims. Artan was quickly shot dead by a campus police officer.

On July 14, 2016, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian man living in France, drove a lorry into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France. More than 80 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Bouhlel was shot and killed by French police officers.

Still other, less successful jihadist attacks have also relied vehicles as the main weapon.

In its propaganda, the self-declared caliphate has repeatedly called on supporters to use vans or trucks against civilians.

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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3 Comments

  • James says:

    Just to brainstorm a bit, to me, the trick is to find the source(s) of this “Amaq News Agency” and to permanently eliminate them. There has to be a trail. A lot of these attacks are copy cat jobs. This kind of propaganda just draws and lures all the nut cases out there that don’t like the current system. This is a matter of our right to exist. This is a matter of our survival. The kind of dirt bags that condone, encourage and carry out these kind of acts must be eliminated. They need to be gone and forgotten. The sooner the better. It should have been done long ago. If it had been done long ago, it would have never grown into the problem that it is now.

    This is a global menace, and it will take a global response to suppress it. We need to work with other countries (particularly their intelligence services) to mitigate this threat. At least most (if not all; including our own) of these countries aren’t going to have pristine human rights records. But, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can multitask this thing. We can fight this menace together and encourage these other countries to respect basic and fundamental human rights (including our own). Just my two cents on the matter.

  • Carl Upshon says:

    Did they announce any warnings though? It’s easy to say your followers were responsible for an attack after it’s happened, with nobody left alive to say ‘no we did it off our own back’ it’s easy for them to claim them.

    I know that warnings would reduce the chance of an attack being successful but little evidence seems to be revealed afterwards that shows they were acting under orders from Daesh.

    I think many are just the lone wolf, sympathisers, that sadly are the hardest type of people to catch.

    • irebukeu says:

      That they are lone wolves is the point. I think what happens is these people, right before an attack, fire off an email, text message or phone call to god only knows where claiming themselves to what amounts to a man already dead. I think Bakr is already gone KIA with only an agreement among his followers, to keep his death quiet . (shades of OMAR-for the same reasoning).

      The attack done in the name of IS is good enough for them. Validates them over AQ as leaders.

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