By J. D. Heyes, editor-in-chief
(National Sentinel) Within 24 hours of Stephen Paddock’s attack on 22,000 country music festival-goers at the Route 91 concert venue in Las Vegas Oct. 1, the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed on social media that the 64-year-old former mailman had ‘pledged allegiance’ to the group in the weeks before his attack.
While police and FBI agents working the case have yet to confirm anything, the group has nevertheless doubled down on its initial claim, repeating it later that week in its weekly report and saying that Paddock converted six months before the attack and identifying him by his Islamic name, “Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki.”
One private-sector intelligence firm, SITE Intelligence Group, says that ISIS has much to lose if the organization is lying about the claim.
While acknowledging that at the time investigators had not yet turned up any evidence that Paddock was a jihadist, SITE’s experts nevertheless pointed out that “ISIS is facing significant losses in Iraq and Syria, and may have seen value in capitalizing on an attack it didn’t commit to salvage morale amongst members and supporters.”
Despite ISIS supporters’ blind faith, the group has a lot to lose if it is caught lying. ISIS is extremely invested projecting legitimacy as well-funded government agencies and organizations constantly work to discredit it. It knows that being caught in a major lie would only feed these entities’ counter narratives.
ISIS knows that respected journalists, analysts, and government officials—with necessary degrees of skepticism and caution—take its attack claims seriously. However, any definitive proof that Paddock had no connection to ISIS would be a severe fracture to how seriously the group’s statements are taken by such communities in the future.
Several other aspects of Paddock’s attack are also worth noting, if for nothing else than because they have all the hallmarks of an act of terrorism. (Related: EXCLUSIVE: Forensic acoustic analysis confirms existence (and range) of second Las Vegas shooter.)
— The attack was meant to cause maximum mayhem and carnage, as well as outright terror and heart-stopping fear. Paddock didn’t use a bolt-action sniper rifle with a high-powered scope, he used automatic weapons, the sound of which are terrifying to the vast majority of Americans.
— Like the 9/11 attacks, who could have anticipated a gunman firing from the 32nd floor of an internationally-recognized hotel venue — the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort? The last thing people thought about (before Oct. 1) when they heard of or talked about the Mandalay Bay was that it could become a venue for terrorism.
— Was it just a coincidence that the city of Las Vegas — “Sin City,” as we ourselves have nicknamed it — was chosen? Islamic militant organizations are known to loathe Western (and especially American) decadence; killing large numbers of Americans in Sin City would be seen in the world of Islamic jihad as a direct assault on American indulgence.
— Reports on Wednesday quoted two law enforcement sources familiar with the Vegas shooting investigation as saying that Paddock, from his 32nd story perch, fired “incendiary rounds” — bullets meant to ignite what they hit — at massive jet fuel storage tanks near the McCarran International Airport, which is parallel to the highly trafficked and populated Vegas strip. The specialized rounds were found in Paddock’s hotel room and also near a fuel tank a short distance away from the airport. Additional reporting said that one round had actually penetrated a tank. Imagine for a moment if several gas storage tanks containing some 43,000 barrels of jet fuel had exploded; the airport and much of the surrounding area would have been demolished, deaths would have been in the tens of thousands, Las Vegas would have been essentially shut down for years — and that would have become the most spectacular and deadly terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil, dwarfing 9/11 in terms of casualties.
— The goal of terrorism is to use violence to affect a certain political outcome, and the more spectacular the attack, the better. What has begun in the aftermath of the attacks? A renewed political debate about guns and gun control — which, if Congress and President Trump implement strict new controls and outright bans that disarm more Americans, would dramatically improve the chances that more citizens down the road will be more vulnerable to attack, not less.
Think about it.
Early in the investigation, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said police were looking to see if Paddock had been “radicalized unbeknownst to us,” adding cryptically, “And we want to identify that source.”
This attack — in its meticulous planning, in its breadth, in its audacity, in its outrageousness, in its scope, and in its intentions — reeks of terrorism.
This story first appeared at NewsTarget.com.
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