The devastating attacks on civilian targets in France, Tunisia and Kuwait come just days after an ISIS spokesman urged his followers to carry out attacks during the holy month of Ramadan.
Abu Mohammed al-Adani, in a message broadcast on June 23, implored “Muslims everywhere”, to “take this blessed month as a chance for Jihad” and make the month “misery” for infidels. He said:
“The best acts that bring you closer to God are Jihad, so hurry it up and make sure to carry out the attacks in this holy month and be exposed to martyrdom in it.”
He went on to say that the rewards for martyrs would be multiplied throughout the month. Three separate terrorist attacks took place today in Tunisia, Kuwait and France. In Tunisia at least 37 people died when at least one gunman opened fire at the popular tourist rest of Sousse.
In Kuwait, 25 people died and more than 200 wounded in a suicide bombing in Kuwait, whilst in France a decapitated body daubed with Arabic writing was found at a US gas company.
Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for only the Kuwait attack, so far. ISIS supporters have been claiming involvement in the other attacks, and it appears they are consistent with previous horrors perpetrated by the group.
The timing of the attacks is significant in more than one way, Max Abrahams from the Washington-based Council for Foreign Relations told Channel 4 News: The anniversary of the self-declared Islamic State caliphate occurs on June 29.
He said he did not think the attacks were co-ordinated, but he was not surprised that they are happening around this time, as it was essential for the group to maintain a public show of strength to mark their anniversary, and show how much they have grown over the year.
“I think that when they declared the border between Iraq and Syria no longer existed, they were derided. This is there way of saying ‘we are still around and we are thriving – and are capable of more violence, in more places than ever’.”
The Islamic State does not need to co-ordinate attacks, Charlie Winter from the Quilliam Foundation for the study of radicalisation told Channel 4 News. “The way that it has democratised its approach to inciting terrorist attacks abroad means they don’t need to have a direct hand in anything that is happening.”
What makes the so-called Islamic State particularly formidable, in contrast to other terrorist groups, Winter said, is that they are skilled at inciting terrorist attacks in their followers and supporters, without providing practical support.
It appears that the France attack was carried out by what security analysts describe as “lone wolf”, Abrahams said – the perpetrator, or small group of perpetrators as it appears to be in this case, acted without the logistical apparatus of a larger terrorist network.
“The French attack seems quite amateurish, with the perpetrator acting with maybe just one other person. Though there are variations in the targets of the attacks – they are all soft – and this is consistent with the current trend.”
This trend has been characterised by Justin Gest, assistant professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, as “garage terrorism”. Taking inspiration from the tradition of garage bands in the 1990s, the individuals are enabled by the accessibility of the internet, the availability of weapons, and “their existence as agile, private individuals who evade society’s sensors.”
The preprator of the Tunisia attack appears to be skilled marksmen; the massacre has so far claimed the lives of at least 37 people – including five Britons. Dr Omar Ashour, Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics and Security Studies at Exeter University told Channel 4 News the large number of Tunisian fighters among the ranks of Isis – and the thousands who have been prevented from joining by Tunisian authorities – was significant.
“It could be that the fighter has combat experience, or more significant levels of training among a terrorist organisation – in Tunisia at the moment that does not necessarily mean they are ISIS affiliated, or a returning fighter.
“It is a possiblity that they could have trained in Libya, Algeria, or within Tunisia itself in the Chaambi mountains where you have a low-level insurgency going on.”
Dr Ashour believes it is too early to tell whether it was a “lone-wolf” attack – linked to but not logistically connected to the wider ISIS network – but either way the massacre represents a deadly escalation in the methods of Islamist militants in the area.
“The minimum is that it is a ‘lone-wolf’ attack, and if lone wolf attack can do such damage then if it is sponsored by a militant organisation than the danger will be even higher.”