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Sunday 25 September 2016

Islamic State claim responsibility for Texas cartoon exhibit attack

Ian Simpson and Mark Hosenball

Published 05/05/2015 | 17:46

An aerial view of the car used by the two gunmen, who were killed by police after they opened fire on an anti-Muslim exhibition in Texas Credit: Reuters
An aerial view of the car used by the two gunmen, who were killed by police after they opened fire on an anti-Muslim exhibition in Texas Credit: Reuters
Police stand guard outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Dallas Credit: Brandon Wade

Islamic State militants have sought to take responsibility for a failed attack on a Texas exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in which two gunmen were killed.

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The Syria- and Iraq-based Islamic State (ISIS) said on its official online radio station that "two soldiers of the caliphate" carried out the attack on Sunday in Garland, a suburb of Dallas.

US officials said while the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the failed Texas attack was being examined closely, investigators at this point did not know whether the dead militants launched the attack under instructions from the group or whether ISIS was opportunistically claiming credit for an attack in which it had little or no direct or indirect involvement.

Read More: 'They came to kill us and died for it,' tweets Mohammed cartoonist

One US official said investigators believed it was possible, if not likely, that Islamic State played an "inspirational" rather than "operational" role in the attack.

That would mean the shooters may have immersed themselves in items posted online by ISIS, and other groups like al Qaeda, intended to incite violence, but that the group played no role in directing an attack on the Mohammad cartoon event.

Investigators are going through the shooters' computers and communications devices, officials said.

Read More: Two dead as Isil inspires terror in Texas

Authorities said roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix were fatally shot by a police officer when they opened fire with assault rifles in a parking lot outside the cartoon exhibit and contest.

An unarmed security guard suffered a minor wound.

Court documents showed Simpson had been under federal surveillance since 2006 and was convicted in 2011 of lying to FBI agents about his desire to join violent jihad in Somalia.

"I believe that perhaps he might have just snapped when he heard about the cartoon contest," Kristina Sitton, a Phoenix attorney who defended him in the case, told CNN.

Sitton said Simpson had never shown any desire to join violent jihad.

Read More: Texas police shoot dead two gunmen who opened fire at Prophet Mohammad cartoon exhibit

Soofi was a popular student at an elite school in Pakistan but struggled to adjust to life after moving to the United States as a teen, friends said on Tuesday.

Soofi's story appeared to trace a familiar arc for some Western Islamists - disappointment, alienation, and a search for belonging that ended with the embrace of militancy.

The shooting in Garland, an ethnic melting pot in a city of about a quarter million people, was an echo of attacks or threats in other Western countries against images depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

In another Dallas suburb, Richardson, police were investigating an attack by two men on a worshipper leaving evening prayers at a mosque on Monday.

"It is too early to say whether this was a hate crime or an attempted robbery," said Richardson Police Sergeant Kevin Perlich.

Police and federal agents had planned security for months ahead of the Garland event, organized by American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a free-speech organisation that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a hate group.

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest Credit: Mike Stone
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders speaks at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest Credit: Mike Stone
Pakistani residents offer funeral prayers in Peshawar for the attackers who were killed when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Texas Credit: HASHAM AHMED
Pakistani residents offer funeral prayers in Peshawar for the attackers who were killed when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Texas Credit: HASHAM AHMED

Reuters

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