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Islamic State group claims Texas attack, first in US

FBI investigators work a crime scene outside Garland's Curtis Culwell Center where a shooting occurred on May 3, 2015

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility Tuesday via its radio station for a gun attack on an anti-Muslim event in Texas, over the weekend, showcasing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

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"Two of the soldiers of the caliphate executed an attack on an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, and this exhibit was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Mohammed," the jihadist group said on the al-Bayan radio station, which began providing English-language news bulletins last month.

"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," the group announced.

The White House, though, said it was "too early to tell" if the two gunmen killed in Sunday’s attack were tied to the militant group.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said many people try to capitalise on the influence of the IS group by claiming allegiance when they are not directly affiliated.

If the jihadist group’s involvement in the shooting is confirmed, it would mark the organisation’s first attack on US soil.

'IMPLICATIONS ARE HUGE EVEN IF OPERATION FAILED'

According to Wassim Nasr, FRANCE 24’s expert on jihadist movements, the fact that the statement was issued on al-Bayan lends the claim a measure of credibility.

“This is really important, it should be taken very seriously because usually they never claim something they didn’t do,” he said.

“There’s a big difference between [the IS group] claiming an attack clearly and just declaring it was a good thing to do, as they did with Coulibaly,” said Nasr, referring to Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who attacked a Paris kosher supermarket in January during a three-day terror spree in the French capital.

Days after Coulibaly was killed by police, ending an hours-long siege at the kosher store, a video emerged of the 32-year-old Frenchman declaring his loyalty to the IS group.

However, the extent of direct involvement of the jihadist group in the Paris attack has not been determined.

According to US media reports, the two suspected jihadists in the Texas attack were Elton Simpson, 31, and Nadir Soofi, 34, who shared an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona.

Simpson was being investigated by the FBI over alleged plans to travel to Somalia to wage holy war, court records show.

Police said two men drove up to the conference centre Sunday in Garland, Texas, where the right-wing American Freedom Defense Initiative was organising the controversial cartoon contest, and began shooting at a security guard.

Garland police officers then shot and killed both men.

'No comparison' with Charlie Hebdo

The American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group listed by civil rights watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group, had organised the event, which drew about 200 people.

At the event, attended by Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders and AFDI co-founder Pamela Geller, supporters held an exhibition of entries to a competition to draw caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

AFDI had offered a $10,000 prize for the winner of the contest, which was billed as a "free speech" event.

Commentators were quick to draw parallels to the January mass shooting at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people and wounded 11 more.

But the magazine's film critic, Jean-Baptiste Thoret, who only avoided the attack because he had been late for work said "there is absolutely no comparison."

"You have [...] a sort of anti-Islamic movement (in Texas)... the problem of Charlie Hebdo is absolutely not the same," Thoret told Charlie Rose on PBS, according to an advance transcript released on Monday.

Gerard Biard, chief editor of the magazine, added: "We don't organise contests. We just do our work. We comment on the news. When Mohammed jumps out of the news, we draw Mohammed.

"But if he didn't, we didn't. We don't... We fight racism. And we have nothing to do with these people."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
 

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