Authorities investigate Islamic State claim in Toronto shooting

The Islamic State has issued a short claim of responsibility via its Amaq News Agency for the July 22 shooting in Toronto, alleging that the gunman was its “soldier.” The language used in its claim is nearly identical to that used by the group after a string of terrorist attacks around the world.

Amaq claims the shooting was carried out in response to the self-declared caliphate’s calls for targeting citizens of the countries participating in the anti-Islamic State coalition. The Islamic State’s first spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, repeatedly called on followers who could not emigrate for jihad to lash out inside their home countries. Adnani even argued that it would be better for the group’s supporters to do so. Other Islamic State propagandists have continued to promulgate this message since Adnani’s death in 2016.

However, Amaq has not provided any specific information about the gunman, or the attack in Toronto.

A 10-year-old girl and a young woman were killed in the shooting, while 13 others were wounded.

Their killer has been identified as Faisal Hussain, 29, of Toronto. Shortly after he was identified, a statement attributed to Hussain’s family was published by the Canadian press. The author(s) of the statement says that Hussain had “severe mental health challenges” and was “struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life.” Moreover, “interventions of professionals were unsuccessful,” while “[m]edications and therapy were unable to treat him.”

Citing a “law enforcement source,” CBS News reported that Hussain “visited Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) websites and may have expressed support for the terrorist group.” Authorities are “looking into whether Hussain may have lived at one time in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, the source said.” CBS News added: “There is no indication that Hussain was directed by ISIS to carry out the attack.”

Amaq News has repeatedly published statements similar to the one posted after the Toronto shooting. Since 2016, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of small-scale attacks in Europe. After several of these incidents, Amaq released footage of the young man or men who carried them out. The men swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the pre-recorded footage, thereby demonstrating a tie to the group, even if it was only a digital one. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Paris knife terrorist swore allegiance to ISIS leader before attack.]

The Islamic State has also claimed that several attacks inside the US were conducted by its soldiers or fighters. In at least some of those cases, the perpetrators swore allegiance to Baghdadi before or during their attacks.

However, the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the Oct. 1, 2017 concert shooting in Las Vegas. Thus far, investigators have not revealed any ties between Stephen Paddock, the man who carried out the massacre, and the jihadists.

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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1 Comment

  • peter jacob says:

    Statement attributed to Hussain’s family of ” severe mental health issues ” does not appear to have been verified by investigative reporting . Similarly , in the case of the Ottawa Bibeau shooter, the mother asserted mental health issues that were left hanging as a possible smokescreen for his heinous actions – became a political football .

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