Extremists Strike Three Continents in Wave of Islamic Holy Month Attacks
Beyond being part of a sickening wave of violence, there’s no evidence yet that attacks killing scores of people across three continents Friday had much in common. U.S. officials said it’s too soon to know whether deadly strikes on an industrial plant in France, a hotel in Tunisia, and a mosque in Kuwait were coordinated, and it’s ...
Beyond being part of a sickening wave of violence, there's no evidence yet that attacks killing scores of people across three continents Friday had much in common. U.S. officials said it's too soon to know whether deadly strikes on an industrial plant in France, a hotel in Tunisia, and a mosque in Kuwait were coordinated, and it's almost certain that a fourth attack on a military base in Somalia was not linked to the others.
Beyond being part of a sickening wave of violence, there’s no evidence yet that attacks killing scores of people across three continents Friday had much in common. U.S. officials said it’s too soon to know whether deadly strikes on an industrial plant in France, a hotel in Tunisia, and a mosque in Kuwait were coordinated, and it’s almost certain that a fourth attack on a military base in Somalia was not linked to the others.
But coming on a day of prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, each highlights the blatant disregard by the apparently Islamic extremist attackers for the annual Muslim rite that seeks to purify the soul.
In France, an attacker stormed an American-owned chemical plant in Lyon while brandishing a flag reported to feature Arabic writing. The attacker, identified as Yassine Salhi, who had at one point been under surveillance by French police, decapitated one person and tried — but failed — to blow up the plant using gas canisters. There are unconfirmed reports that Salhi may have had an accomplice.
“This attack was a vehicle, driven by a person, maybe accompanied by another, who rammed at great speed into this factory,” French President François Hollande said. “There is no doubt about the intention, which was to cause an explosion.”
The attack in Tunisia targeted a hotel in the city of Sousse and left 27 people dead. One gunman was killed by police, and a second is reportedly on the run. A news photo shows one of the alleged gunmen shot dead in the street, his body splayed next to his assault rifle. Coming in the wake of a March assault on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, the shooting at the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba and an adjacent beach is the second recent attack on the country’s tourism industry.
The identity and motives of the attackers remain unknown. An analysis by New York-based North Africa Risk Consulting said, “Islamic State sympathizers are the most likely culprits, but al Qaeda allies should not be discounted.”
In Kuwait, at least 10 people died when a suicide bomber struck Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque. A Kuwaiti lawmaker told Reuters that more than 2,000 people were in the mosque when the attacker, reportedly a young man in his 20s, struck the religious ceremony. An Islamic State affiliate that also claimed responsibility for two attacks on Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia has said it carried out the attack in Kuwait.
Taken together, the attacks in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait raise concerns about the growth of the Islamic State and its followers as it metastasizes beyond the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. “While we are still waiting for more information on whether there were any links or coordination in the timing of the attacks, it is clear that ISIS’s ability to inspire and radicalize followers is a global threat, and no nation is beyond its insidious reach,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Friday.
But in a violent anomaly to the pattern, a suicide truck bomber hit an African Union military base in Somalia, leaving at least 30 dead. The militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack on the base in Leego, a remote outpost in the war against the terrorist organization. On Wednesday, a convoy transporting the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Somalia was struck by a suicide attack. The ambassador survived.
U.S. officials privately cast doubt that Friday’s attacks were related; the Defense Department said it is too soon to know. Al-Shabab, for example, is linked to the al Qaeda network; al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been competing for support and bragging rights as the world’s most fearsome terrorist organization. But the widespread carnage lays bare at least one common link: unbridled savagery.
This article was updated with Adam Schiff’s comments.
Photo credit: Fethi Belaid/AFP
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