Re-Emergence of al Baghdadi Likely to Cause a Surge in ISIS-Inspired Lone Wolfe Attacks
On Saturday evening, a Somalian refugee Abdulahi Hasan Sharif ran over an Edmonton police officer and then stabbed the peace officer several times before fleeing the scene. Later, he attempted to escape police in a rental vehicle and swerved his van repeatedly to strike pedestrians in an all too well- known pattern of ISIS-inspired terrorist vehicle attacks. Abdulahi Hasan Sharif was found with an ISIS flag and had been known to police for his extremist views. On Sunday, a man believed to be of Tunisian origin with several fake identities stabbed two women to death outside a Marseille train station and then attempted to attack police before being shot to death by French security forces. As he charged at police armed with a knife, the Marseille attacker shouted out the ISIS battle cry. Then, very sadly, on Sunday night, Stephen Paddock, carried out a sniper style attack on a large open-air music festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel killing 58 people and wounding 400 others. He then killed himself as police stormed the hotel room and found 10 firearms. Although, there are no linkages to terrorism other than the sniper attack style, ISIS claimed responsibility and said Paddock was a recent convert to Islam. If true, it would be the worst ISIS-inspired mass killing in the US since Orlando. To be fair, ISIS in recent months has made several claims without providing any evidence, and some of those claims have been considered as dubious, and Las Vegas may be a case in point. The vehicle and stabbing attacks likely took place with little planning. Paddocks's attack in contrast shows considerable planning and forethought. An observer of these events could easily ask what caused this surge in violence or links them together.
The answer, would likely be the re-emergence of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who appears in a 46- minute audio recording trying to rally his troops last week in the lead up to Yom Kippur. The audio recording mentions recent international events as proof of life and calls on supporters to carry out attacks and to carry out killings at Western media outlets. The audio recording is the first message from Baghdadi in almost 10 months and would represent a major boost to an organization in its death throes in Syria and Iraq and in a battle with a resurgent al-Qaeda for ‘market share.’ Not surprisingly, the ISIS demand that its supporters carry out attacks on Westerners including with vehicles re-emerged in jihadi media just days before the Edmonton vehicle attack. Therefore, it is not hard to link Edmonton or Marseille to the list of ISIS-inspired ‘lone wolf’ attacks. It is much harder to link the Paddock mass killing to the ISIS-inspired column of events. But the Las Vegas outrage does serve a purpose for ISIS in its struggle to maintain its global network and far flung support base by claiming credit for terrorist attacks carried out by others. Only time and a thorough investigation will tell us what sparked Paddock’s horrendous act, and what truly motivated him to carry out a mass slaughter of innocents. For now, the Las Vegas attack will become another tool in ISIS psychological and communications war with the West and another push to rally its supporters to carry out ‘lone wolf’ style attacks. Europe and North America can expect a surge in terror attacks and violence.