Mere hours after the horrific event in Las Vegas earlier this week, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Stephen Paddock, the terror organization alleges, converted to Islam months ago and was a loyal soldier of the caliphate. ISIS states that Paddock was inspired by one of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s speeches and even gave him an Arabic name, “Abu Abd El Bar al Amriki.”
The FBI, however, has stated that the shooter had no ties to international terrorist groups. ISIS and their news organization Amaq have provided no evidence to their claims, and many have rejected the claims entirely. Others still believe there is a connection. Liberty Nation will refrain from jumping to conclusions for the sake of a story. The investigation is underway and definitive proof, of either account, has yet to come.
Instead, we will examine why many experts conclude ISIS is taking credit for something they did not do, and why they would make such a claim.
Proof in the Precedent
When ISIS typically asserts responsibility for an atrocity, there is evidence to back it up. Video proclamations of allegiance to the Islamic State, video or photos of the attack, or ISIS paraphernalia at the scene or the perpetrator’s home are usually present. ISIS has instructed would-be jihadists to take these and other steps to ensure that the group receives credit.
None of these things have been found (so far). Time will tell if there is indeed a connection, but none of these usual markers are present. ISIS, who typically doesn’t claim events they have not been involved in, has had a rise of false claims over the past year. The attack on Russian security service offices in April, a bomb in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris (which was a false alarm), and a casino attack in Manila in June are just a few.
Their trend of legitimate claims has been shifting, and it’s likely not mere coincidence that their propensity to make false claims correlates with their significant losses of territory and influence in the Middle East. Is this a change in tactics? If so, why?
The Reputation Game
Terrorism, in and of itself, is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political goals. Their most significant weapon is not a car bomb, a gun, or a machete. It’s fear: fear of further attacks, that nowhere is safe, that the war against them may never end. Terrorists attempt to use this to garner the capitulation of their opponents. That fear is largely predicated on their reputation.
Fledgling terror groups are quick to make false claims of responsibility to further their narrative and reputation as the new boogieman. By asserting their connection with major attacks, they implant themselves into the global consciousness. It is publicity, plain and simple. Increased publicity can improve a terror organization’s ability to recruit and increase their chances of being taken seriously by older, more established groups.
A Change in Tactics?
ISIS has, more often than not, shied away from terroristic plagiarism. Recently, however, false claims have been on the rise. Some experts believe that ISIS is desperate in the wake of losing territory in Iraq and Syria. With an eroding power base, the terror group is grasping at straws to make itself seem more imposing.
Another belief is that they are playing a sort of “long con” where confusion and unpredictability are the intended effects, keeping authorities and adversaries on their toes. This tactic would point to a morphing from an attempted rogue state to traditional terrorist organization.
Time will tell if there is some hidden veracity to ISIS’ statements, but whatever the reason, the claims certainly have terror experts puzzled. Why do you think ISIS claimed the attack? Tell us in the comments!
Nathan is a writer, editor, and technical advisor working in the Richmond, Virginia area. With over a decade of experience and careful study in military, national security, and strategic topics, Nathan has provided his expertise for novel and film projects as a technical advisor. When he isn't writing for Liberty Nation he can be found chasing after his children or preparing for his next triathlon.
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