Authorities confirmed that the shooting incident on Sunday at a Mohammed cartoon contest was an Islamic terror attack. ISIS has claimed responsibility, warning of further attacks in the US.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
An investigation into the incident in which two men opened fire on Sunday on a cartoon contest for the best depiction of the Muslim prophet Mohammed in the Dallas suburb of Garland reveals that the terrorists were motivated by their Muslim religious convictions.
The Islamic State (ISIS) issued a message on its official radio station on Tuesday claiming responsibility for the attack.
According to the broadcast, two Al Khilafa soldiers – how ISIS refers to its fighters – were responsible.
“We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things,” ISIS threatened. “The future is just around the corner.”
In March, US security forces arrested an Illinois Army National Guardsman after he attempted to travel to join ISIS in Libya.
The terrorists have been identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi.
A convert to Islam, Simpson described as quiet and devout, has lately been on the radar of law enforcement because of his social media presence. Authorities nevertheless has no indication that he was plotting an attack, said one federal official familiar with the investigation. Less is known about Soofi, who appeared to have never been prosecuted in federal court, according to a search of court records.
FBI agents searched a Phoenix apartment on Monday as part of the investigation. FBI spokesman Perryn Collier confirmed that the residence was being examined for indications as to what prompted the shooting that killed two terrorists, who were armed with assault rifles and wearing body armor, and wounded a security officer.
Court documents show that Simpson was convicted in Phoenix of lying to the FBI in January 2010 regarding a discussion on traveling to Somalia. According to trial testimony, Simpson became the subject of a criminal investigation in 2006 because of his ties to Hassan Abu Jihaad, a former US Navy sailor who had been arrested in Phoenix and was ultimately convicted of terrorism-related charges. Jihaad was accused of leaking details about his ship’s movements to operators of a website in London that openly espoused violent jihad against the US.
Agents recorded Simpson talking about fighting “nonbelievers for Allah,” about his plans to travel to South Africa and link up with “brothers” in Somalia and about using school as a cover story for traveling overseas. He was arrested one day leaving for South Africa, authorities say.
Simpson was convicted, but a judge ruled that prosecutors did not prove the false statement involved terrorism. He was later sentenced to three years of probation.
Texas police say the officers who fatally shot the terrorists likely saved lives. Garland Police Officer Joe Harn said the officers were able to stop the assailants before they were able to get inside the venue hosting the event and shoot others.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Monday that law enforcement authorities are investigating the men’s motives and all circumstances surrounding the attack.
“While all the facts are not in yet, last night’s attack serves as a reminder that free and protected speech, no matter how offensive to some, never justifies violence of any sort,” Johnson said.
In a statement released late Monday by Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon, Simpson’s family said they were “struggling to understand” how the incident happened.
“We are sure many people in this country are curious to know if we had any idea of Elton’s plans,” they said. “To that we say, without question, we did not.”
The statement, which does not identify the relatives, also says the family is “heartbroken and in a state of deep shock” and sends prayers to everyone affected by this “act of senseless violence,” especially the security guard who was injured.
Simpson worshiped at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix for about a decade, but he quit showing up over the past two or three months, Usama Shami, president of the mosque, told Associated Press.
Sharon Soofi, the other terrorist’s mother, told the Dallas Morning News that she had no idea that he had turned to violence. Her son was “raised in a normal American fashion” and “was very politically involved with the Middle East. Just aware of what’s going on,” she said. “I don’t know if something snapped.”
She said the last time she had communicated with her son was last month, when she sent a text message wishing her grandson a happy birthday.
“He put his son above everything, I thought,” she told the newspaper. “The hard thing is to comprehend is why he would do this and leave an eight-year-old son behind.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office issued a statement Monday saying that “such criminal acts have nothing to do with religion or belief” and that “ideas must only be defended through democratic debate and dialogue.”
Ban’s office said there is no justification for violence and that intercultural dialogue and respect are crucial means to prevent and address extremism.
America’s largest Muslim advocacy organization condemned the terror incident. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement Monday that a violent response is more insulting to the Muslim faith than any cartoon. “Bigoted speech” can’t be an excuse for violence,” CAIR said.
Community leaders emphasized the support of American Muslims for open speech, and they condemned acts of terror.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called the shooting a “heinous crime” and said he was being briefed by state authorities.
“We live in a country where the First Amendment is one of the paramount promises of this nation,” Abbott said. “That provides people the ability to speak out to say what they want. Just as people draw cartoons mocking the governor, people may draw cartoons mocking others.”
“There is no act of expression, even if it’s offensive, that justifies an act of violence,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest stated.
Earnest praised the officers who responded to the Sunday night shooting, saying, “we saw a pretty important and notable display of bravery on the part of first responders.” He praised the officers for their courage, which prevented more injuries and deaths.