Islamic State claimed responsibility claimed responsibility for the worst mass shooting in American history, the atrocity in Las Vegas. They described gunman Stephen Paddock as a “soldier of the Islamic State” who had “converted to Islam several months ago.”
Above video published on the Fox Business YouTube channel, May 26, 2017. Retired CIA Operations Officer Sam Faddis on Las Vegas police warning hotels and casinos about ISIS threat video.
Yet just because the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) claimed it as a terrorist attack, that does not mean they carried it out. Police have not yet released further information about the gunman and his motives. Clear evidence has not yet emerged linking the gunman to ISIS. The FBI claims the massacre has no connection to terrorism.
So did they do it? To a certain extent it doesn’t actually matter.
Amaq news agency, the semi-official Islamic State news agency, does not normally outright lie about terror incidents, notes Graeme Wood, an Islamic State expert, writing in The Atlantic. However it would not be the first time it has done so, Wood points out.
Even if ISIS did not carry out the attack, claiming credit for it would further sow seeds of panic, one of the main goals of the terror group. Increased misinformation and suspicion serves the agenda of creating terror and chaos by undermining public trust in institutions and fellow citizens. Simply threatening or claiming credit for attacks still creates the raw fear that is the real goal of terrorism.
Further, the strategy of jihadi terrorists is to isolate Muslim communities in the West by increasing hatred against them, forcing them to choose between abandoning Islam entirely or joining the extremists. Jihadi propaganda calls this “eliminating the gray zone” and creating mistrust between Muslims and non-Muslims is a key part of this strategy. If Muslims are angry at increased surveillance of their communities while non-Muslims are angry at perceived Muslim failure to confront terror, jihadi groups profit from the disharmony.
We still do not know the motive of the Las Vegas shooter. In claiming the attack for itself, the Islamic State is spreading terror regardless of who actually carried it out.