Islamic State embrace of Texas attack is first claim of action in U.S.

An Islamic State radio station in Syria on Tuesday claimed that two gunmen slain by police in Texas were “brothers of the caliphate” but did not include any details about the failed attack in Garland that would show a direct link between the group and the two men.

The broadcast, which first aired on a station in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, was later rebroadcast in Mosul, the city that the Islamic State captured 11 months ago as it began its march across northern and central Iraq.

The embrace of the two shooters in the Texas attack, which targeted a gathering held by a well known anti-Islam organization, is the first time the Islamic State has sought to link itself to an attack in the United States. But it was uncertain that the group was aware of the shooters’ plans in advance.

Both the FBI and the CIA declined to comment.

“We say to the defenders of the cross, the U.S., that future attacks are going to be harsher and worse,” said the anonymous announcer, in a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terrorist groups’ communications. “The Islamic State soldiers will inflict harm on you with the grace of God. The future is just around the corner.”

One of the dead men, Elton Simpson, had declared himself a follower of the Islamic State on social media before the attack. But whether he was in contact with the Islamic State prior to Sunday’s incident was unknown. The Islamic State frequently has called upon its supporters to take independent action against Western targets.

Simpson was well known to U.S. authorities after a conviction for lying to investigators who believed he was about to attempt to leave the United States for Somalia to join the al Qaida-linked Shabab militant group.

Simpson, an Illinois native, converted to Islam “at a young age,” according to a defense statement filed in 2010 when he faced the federal charges. FBI agents reported having tape-recorded Simpson making statements in support of violent jihad and he was charged with falsely claiming he had not had discussions about traveling to Somalia.

“I’m telling you man, we can make it to the battlefield,” Simpson told another man in 2009, a FBI agent recounted in a Jan. 19, 2010 hearing, a transcript shows. “It’s time to roll.”

Simpson then added “bye,bye America,” a prosecutor said in the 2010 hearing.

But Simpson’s assistant federal public defender in the 2010 case, Kristina Sitton, stressed “that nothing in his past” would suggest Simpson would be a dangerous flight risk. At the time of his 2010 arrest, Sitton said, Simpson was preparing to travel to South Africa to study.

“It doesn’t even look like there are any traffic offenses, criminal traffic offenses in his past,” Sitton said, a transcript shows.

The judge sentenced him to probation on the offense.

The Islamic State was not in existence at the time, and it would not be unusual for an al Qaida sympathizer to have transferred his loyalty to the group after the capture of Mosul last June. The Islamic State and al Qaida share virtually the same ideology and goals of establishing a state built on Islamic law in Muslim lands.

The second man killed by police, Nadir Soofi, was not known to U.S. authorities. Both men had moved to Phoenix, and lived in the same apartment complex.

The two men drove to Garland, a suburb of Dallas, arriving at the an auditorium where an anti-Islam group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, was holding an event that featured a contest for the best caricature of the Prophet Muhammad shortly before the event was to end.

Armed with assault rifles and wearing body armor, the two men jumped from their car and opened fire, slightly wounding a Garland school district security guard. A Garland police officer returned fire and was soon joined by a barrage of fire from some of the 40 other officers who’d been assigned to protect the meeting. Both Simpson and Soofi were killed.

The attack bore similarities, at least in intent to the January attack in Paris on the offices of the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, which also featured caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, something that offends many Muslims.

The perpetrators of that attack claimed they belonged to al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaida branch based in Yemen. But a third person who shot a police officer and then killed four people at a kosher grocery store after the Charlie Hebdo attack claimed allegiance to the Islamic State.

AQAP, in claiming responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, recognized the third man as a fellow holy warrior, but did not take responsibility for his actions.

No direct link to the Islamic State was established but it was later determined that his wife had fled to Islamic State-ruled territory in Syria.

Mike Doyle in Washington and a McClatchy special correspondent in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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