The Cable

Islamic State Claims Credit for British-Born London Attacker

Politicians nevertheless still found a way to blame immigration.


Less than 24 hours after a bloody rampage that killed four, including one American, outside of Parliament and on Westminster Bridge Thursday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group called the attacker “a soldier of the Islamic State” — the group’s term for those who carry out attacks in its name — who acted “in response to appeals targeting nationals of coalition countries.” That suggested it was not a direct or commissioned strike.

On Thursday, before police named Khalid Masood, age 52, as the attacker, Prime Minister Theresa May told members of Parliament on Thursday, was British-born and known to intelligence services. He had been investigated years ago, May said, but was now “peripheral.” May also told Parliament, “Let this be the message from this House and this nation today: our values will prevail.” This was an echo of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s video message, released Wednesday: “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism,” Khan said. So, too, did it have shades of a message from satirical London outlet NewsThump that made the social media rounds on Wednesday that argued the attack intended to further divide society. “They want your anger, they want your fury — and they want you to focus it on anyone different from you. Don’t hand them an easy victory.”

A decidedly different tack was taken by former UKIP leader and media personality Nigel Farage, who decided to use the attack as an opportunity to say Americans should stop protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

“I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries,” he said on Fox News, adding, “Surely an American audience seeing this horrendous thing happening in Westminster should start to say to itself that when Donald Trump tries to put in place vetting measures, he is doing it to protect your country. Frankly, all those people out protesting in Fifth Avenue in New York and elsewhere need to have a good, long hard think about what they are doing.” He continued, “Frankly, if you open your door to uncontrolled immigration from Middle Eastern countries, you are inviting in terrorism.”

While Farage’s statement didn’t appear to acknowledge Wednesday’s attacker was British-born, it was echoed by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who said on Thursday, “I hear in Europe very often: do not connect the migration policy with terrorism, but it is impossible not to connect them.” Szydlo seemed to believe the attack vindicated Poland’s policy against taking in refugees, who, again, were not involved in this attack.

The logic that terrorist attacks are reason to keep out refugees is not, of course, exclusively European, and was also seen stateside in the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting and the 2015 San Bernardino attack.

For their part, British authorities are focusing their investigation on Birmingham, where the attacker (now dead) lived, and which counter-terrorism experts have long considered as having a problem with radicalization.

Update, March 23 2017, 11:18 am ET: This piece was updated to include mention of the American killed in Wednesday’s attack.

Update, March 23 2017: 12:07 pm ET: This piece was updated to include the name of the attacker as given by the police. 

Photo credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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