Islamic State too quick to claim attacks: From Las Vegas to Philippine casino, the group's unverified claims

Even as the Islamic State is losing major territory in Iraq and Syria, the group is actively claiming responsibility for every attack and bomb blast in the world. It enjoyed a brief moment of glory after claiming the Las Vegas shooting on Monday, where 59 people were killed and 527 injured. Without providing any evidence, the organisation said that the gunman was a soldier from its ranks, who converted to Islam months ago.

The FBI, however said that it has found no such connection so far. Authorities believe that there is no connection to international terrorism. Terrorist experts told CNBC that it seems the group is desperate for attention and will claim just about everything. "They have lost so much territory, and they fear they are becoming irrelevant," said Colin Clarke, a political scientist and terrorism expert. Since losing Mosul, experts say, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several incidents with which it has nothing to do.

 Islamic State too quick to claim attacks: From Las Vegas to Philippine casino, the groups unverified claims

Representational image. Reuters

However, some other experts who track the group closely told The Hill that when it comes to attacks in the West, if the Islamic State is claiming responsibility, there is some kind of connection between the perpetrator and the group.

However, the 2015 attack in which 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, California says otherwise. According to initial reports, the shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were confirmed as followers of the group, the then FBI director James Comey later said no evidence has been found of the couple being part of an organised cell or having any contact with overseas terror groups, The Independent reported.

Interestingly, these are not the only instances when the Islamic State's claims have been less than authentic. It has a history of exaggerated and in some cases, of false claims.

More recently, the group claimed responsibility for an attack at a casino in Manila, Philippines in June this year that left 37 people dead. The police has repeatedly denied that the incident was terror-related. "They have this reputation of claiming all atrocities all over the world to perpetuate themselves to gain global notoriety," CNN quoted Oscar Albayalde, police chief for the Manila area, as saying.

The police later said that the man behind the attack was hooked to gambling and was $80,000 in debt. Albayalde said that the attacker's family's account corroborate the belief that it was not an act of terrorism. He added that the man had sold off property, including a vehicle, to support his gambling habit of at least several years and his family had grown so concerned they had asked casinos in the capital to ban him.

Jerusalem gun attack

The knife-and-gun attack that killed a policewoman in Jerusalem in June this year was claimed by the Islamic State. However, Haaretz reported that Israel defense forces have cast a doubt over this claim of responsibility. Military sources said that the assailants were part of a "classic local cell" and did not belong to a terror organisation.

Hamas also dismissed the involvement of the Islamic State calling it "one of the Israeli intelligence's fabrications." He said it was a move to "confuse the media and distort the reputation of the Palestinian resistance." He also confirmed that one of the attackers was a member of Hamas, according to Newsweek.

Ohio State University attack

Even though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack at Ohio State Univeristy in Novermber, 2016, calling the student who drove his car into pedestrians and slashed people with a knife a "soldier" of the terrorist group, investigators have not found any strong evidence linking the attacker to militant groups, according to AP.

A federal official said that investigators had seen no evidence so far that the militant group's role was anything more than inspirational.

Pulse nightclub shooting

An American man who had allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June 2016 and the terror organisation immediately claimed responsibility.

Amaq said that "the attack that… left more than one hundred dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic State fighter." An Islamic State-run radio station also labelled the shooter, Omar Mateen, as "one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America," according to TIME.

This came after reports saying Mateen called 911 before the attack in order to swear his allegiance to the terror group. While confirming that Mateen had indeed called 911, FBI did not verify what the shooter had said.

The Central Intelligence Agency chief, however, was not able to uncover any link between Mateen and the Islamic State. "We have not been able to uncover any direct link between that individual, Mateen, and a foreign terrorist organisation," the chief told a US Senate intelligence committee, according to The Guardian.

Copenhagen shooting

A shooting in Copenhagen in September 2016, when two police officers were shot was also claimed by the Islamic State. The group's news agency Amaq said the attacker was "a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the operation in response to calls to target coalition states." However, the Danish police ruled out a terror angle to the incident.

The police identified the shooter as a Danish citizen who appeared to sympathise with Islamic extremists, though they said this didn't play any role in the shooting, AP reported.

These numerous unverified claims, as CBC News states, gives the militants publicity, and in the case of the Orlando massacre, draws attention away from the group's recent losses in Iraq and Syria.  Howeverm dismissing reports of false claims, Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group told NPR that that they have not yet found a real lie from the Islamic State. "Despite the fact that they are a terrorist organisation, they want to provide their followers and supporters with authentic information," she said.

The terror organisation does not distinguish between a direct attack and lone wolf attacks carried out independently based on the group's propaganda. "You can have somebody who had no direct ties to the Islamic State whatsoever, at least that we're aware of — someone who was inspired by the Islamic State but not actually directed by them at all… Islamic State is equally willing to claim them all," said Thomas Joscelyn, senior editor of the counterterrorism publication The Long War Journal.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 03, 2017 13:24:30 IST