The FBI said Monday there is “no connection” between international terrorist groups and the gunman who killed 58 people and injured at least 515 more in Las Vegas Sunday night, pushing back on the Islamic State’s claim that it had directed the deadly attack.
The Islamic State’s unsubstantiated claim, released on Monday, didn’t mention gunman Stephen Paddock by name, and came amid rampant speculation about the attacker’s identity and motives.
So far, the ISIS claim has not held up to scrutiny, raising the question of why the terrorist group would claim responsibility for an attack it didn’t commit.
For one, such a claim guarantees relevance for ISIS by keeping it in the news, terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Business Insider.
“There is a long history of terrorists trying to elbow themselves into the limelight and milk some horrible tragedy to claim some credit for themselves,” said Hoffman, who serves as Georgetown University’s director of security studies.
“For them, it’s a quote-unquote ‘freebie,’ in the sense that they get attention, and people talk about whether it’s them. For terrorist groups, being in the news is one of the validations that they have an impact,” he said.
Historically, the majority of the Islamic State’s claimed attacks were carried out by people acting in its name, but the group has made multiple spurious claims in recent memory. Notably, the group claimed credit for a deadly mass shooting at a Manila casino in June, although no connection between the gunman and the group was ever discovered.
The Islamic State claim was reported by Amaq, a news agency that has been linked to the terrorist group but has not formally acknowledged the connection. As Islamic State expert Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi wrote in a blog post on Monday, releasing the statement through Amaq gives the Islamic State plausible deniability if no connection between the group and the gunman emerges.
“This saves the Islamic State the trouble of having to ‘retract’ a claim, since from the standpoint of communicating to the external world, no formal claim was made if the only material ever issued was an Amaq News report relying on a mere ‘source,'” Al-Tamimi wrote.
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