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U.S. Lawmakers: Too Soon to Tell if Copenhagen Attacks Tied to Radical Islam

U.S. lawmakers said it's too early to tell if the man behind the Copenhagen attack has ties to al Qaeda or the Islamic State.

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The weekend’s shootings that left two dead in Copenhagen may well be the latest case of radical Islam sowing fear in a violent march across the West. But U.S. lawmakers caution it’s still too early to tell if the attacks were carried out by the Islamic State, al Qaeda or other extremist networks.

“We still don’t know,” Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday. He said the U.S. intelligence is working with Danish authorities in the investigation.

“Was there an affiliation with al Qaeda or ISIS? Was this self-radicalization? Was this a copycat of what happened in Paris?” Schiff (D-Calif.) said on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. “It’s still too early to tell.”

If so, the attacks — on a free speech forum and near a synagogue in the Danish capital — are expected play into a wider debate about government surveillance and immigration fears as Europe grapples with tightening counterterror measures in the wake of shootings in Paris last month that killed 17 and is believed to have been carried out by militants linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Julianne Smith, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, said some European governments — particularly in Germany — have resisted embracing invasive and controversial surveillance measures like those used by the National Security Agency. Now, she said, the recent spate of terror attacks in the West have “turned that debate on its head and put counterterrorism cooperation back at the top of the transatlantic agenda.”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt called the first Copenhagen shooting, on Saturday, a “terrorist attack.”

A day later, on Sunday, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned that the Islamic State threat is “metastasizing” beyond Iraq and Syria but stopped short of directly linking the extremist group to the weekend attacks in Copenhagen.

“This threat is very different, and that’s why it is important for us to fully, fully understand the threat, understand how we’re going to go forward,” Corker said on CBS’s Face The Nation. “This is something that is going to take a long commitment by all of those in the free world to undermine what ISIS is doing.”

Danish police shot and killed the man believed to be responsible for Saturday’s attack at a free speech event organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Early Sunday, police say the same gunman exchanged fire with authorities near a synagogue. Finn Norgaard, 55, was killed at the cafe and Dan Uzan, a 37-year-old member of Copenhagen’s Jewish community, was killed at the synagogue. Five were injured in the attacks.

The suspect was killed when police approached him near an address under surveillance. “Nothing at this point suggests there were other perpetrators,” investigator Joergen Skov told the Associated Press.

No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. Jens Madsen, head of Denmark’s security service, said it is possible the gunman was “inspired by militant Islamist propaganda issued by IS [Islamic State] and other terror organizations,” but it’s not known whether he is directly affiliated with the group, nor whether he traveled to Iraq or Syria.

The free speech attack is the second this year against journalists who have caricatured Mohamed, an act many Muslims consider blasphemous.

In January, 17 people were killed in Paris when two gunmen attacked the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

Photo credit: Odd Andersen

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