Abu Baker al-Maqdisi, a senior jihadist associated with the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Gaza Strip, insists his terrorist organization was responsible for the Las Vegas massacre, contrary to U.S. law enforcement’s rejection of that claim.
Al-Maqdisi fought within ISIS ranks in Syria and Iraq before returning to his native Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Breitbart Jerusalem, al-Maqdisi repeated the organization’s unsubstantiated claims that Stephen Paddock, the perpetrator of the largest mass shooting attack in U.S. history, was recruited by ISIS when he converted to Islam several months ago. There is no evidence of any such conversion.
“Even the weapons he used in this assault were purchased with Islamic State funds,” al-Maqdisi claimed, without offering any proof and despite Paddock’s reportedly being financially fluid enough to have purchased the weapons himself.
U.S. officials say Paddock, a consummate gambler, bought 33 weapons in the last year. He also wired $100,000 to the Philippines in the days before the shooting, according to a U.S. official speaking to the Associated Press. Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was reportedly in the Philippines at the time of the shooting.
The ISIS claim was first made by Amaq, which serves as the de facto media propaganda arm of IS. Amaq published a series of ISIS statements claiming without any evidence that Paddock was a “soldier of the caliphate” who converted to Islam several months ago and perpetrated the mass shooting “in response to calls to target states of the coalition” battling ISIS.
In another statement, the Islamic State referred to Paddock by the nom de guerre of “Abu Abd al-Bar al-Ameriki.”
The ISIS claims of responsibility have been rejected by the FBI, which said the shooter had no known ISIS connection.
Speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem, Al-Maqdisi claimed that “in spite of Crusader misinformation about IS withdrawing in Iraq and Syria, we are still capable of making” these kinds of attacks.
“There are many more lone wolves inside the U.S who are preparing more attacks. This won’t be the last one.”
Al-Maqdisi claimed, “Never, since the organization got started, has it falsely claimed responsibility for something it didn’t do.”
“What sets the Islamic State organization apart from all the other organizations in the Middle East is the fact that we don’t attribute to ourselves things that we are not responsible for,” added al-Maqdisi. “In addition, we have always proved, including in other events in the U.S., that our claims of responsibility are accurate.”
Maqdisi’s boasts are not entirely true. Amaq does have a fairly good track record when it comes to claims of responsibility. However, as CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank pointed out in a series of tweets, ISIS took credit for two attacks since June for which it was reportedly not responsible.
One ISIS false claim was a deadly casino attack in Manila in June, which turned out to be a robbery attempt, according to local authorities.
Another was the claim that it smuggled weapons into Charles De Gaulle Airport last month, prompting a security alert. It turned out the alert was actually caused by a disgruntled passenger.
ISIS’s false claims come as the terrorist organization has been losing major ground in Iraq and Syria.
Meanwhile, Maqdisi claimed, “The attack in Marseille and the attack in Las Vegas are natural responses to the crimes of these countries against Islam and against the Muslims in Iraq and Syria.”
These attacks will only increase in the coming months,” he said.
He was referring to an attack in Marseille in the south of France in which two women were stabbed to death by a man reportedly yelling, “Allahu akbar,” or “Allah is great” in Arabic, according to witnesses. ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage via the Amaq News Agency.
“We announced in the past that the Islamic State has cells in America and the entire region of the West, and spectacles like those in Marseille and Las Vegas will continue to be part of the lives of the citizens of the crusader countries.”
Paddock does not fit the typical profile of ISIS jihadis. Typically, it’s young men who profess their allegiance to ISIS, and many have criminal backgrounds. His name was also not listed on databases of suspected terrorists, U.S. authorities said.
As Graeme Wood of the Atlantic noted, we have seen “no cell-phone video from the killer, pledging allegiance in broken Arabic. … Another absent sign of Islamic State involvement is videos from Paddock’s rifle-scope.” He added, “At attacks like the Holey Bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the killers have uploaded real-time images, exclusive and corroborating imagery for Amaq.”
Paddock reportedly set up a video camera inside his hotel room and had another camera in the hallway for surveillance.