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IS Sudden Claim for New York City Truck Attack Raises Questions on the Collapse of the Group

With IS claiming the New York City truck attack, questions arise on the collapse of the group's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria

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New York City Attack
The Home Depot Truck being removed after the NYC Attack.VOA.
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New York, November 4: Key differences between Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the New York City truck attack and claims for previous terror attacks have caught the eye of counterterror officials, who are trying to determine what it might mean for the state of terror group.

Most notably, they said, the way in which IS issued the claim failed to follow the group’s usual patterns, raising questions about whether the collapse of the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria was starting to take a toll.

“One of the soldiers of the Islamic State attacked a number of crusaders on a street in New York City,” the group’s weekly al-Naba newsletter said late Thursday, claiming attacker Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as one of its own.

“This is one of the most prominent attacks to target crusaders in America,” al-Naba continued, adding, “[By] the grace of Allah, the operation instilled fear in crusader America.”

But officials and analysts said that it’s rare for IS to make such a claim first in al-Naba.

“It’s not unprecedented, but it is something we’re not used to,” said Raphael Gluck, an independent researcher.

While considered an official IS channel, al-Naba has traditionally been used to follow up on the group’s initial claims, which often come from its Amaq or Nashir news agencies, in multiple languages, via social media.

Relying on those news agencies this time, however, may not have been possible.

“The Amaq news agency has sputtered in recent weeks, and struggled without a website,” Gluck said.

New York City Truck Attack
Police stand near the New York City Truck Attack. VOA.

Statement wording

There are also questions about how the statement in al-Naba was worded, which also differs from wordings in many previous claims.

“The al-Naba story on the New York attack relies exclusively on outside media reporting of the attacks,” according to an analysis done by Ryan Pereira for the Counter Extremism Project.

“Traditionally, Amaq and al-Naba claims for responsibility include language suggesting that a source close to Amaq or a source close to the Islamic State relayed attack details to the group’s media officials,” Pereira wrote.

Nor did the account in al-Naba offer any evidence to substantiate the group’s claim.

Additionally, it has been rare, though not unprecedented, for IS to claim an attacker as a “soldier of the caliphate” if he is still alive.

Another part of the al-Naba statement that caught the attention of counterterror officials was the way it referred to the deadly October 1 shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

Al-Naba described the Las Vegas shooting as “the attack carried out by the mujahid brother Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki — may Allah accept him — against a large gathering of crusaders.”

It was not the first time IS had claimed the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, 64, as one of its own, referring to him with an Arabic nom de guerre. But so far, investigators have yet to come forward with any evidence that connects him to IS.

Instead, U.S. counterterror officials have cautioned for months that IS is increasingly opportunistic, even desperate, with one official noting the group has been “stepping up its claims of inspired attacks even in cases that do not appear to be connected to the group.”

And, although they admit IS has been been able to adapt to losses and hardships, some see the claim late Thursday for this week’s attack as possibly falling along those lines. (VOA)

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New York Attack Suspect Charged in US Federal Court; Trump Open to Sending him to Guantanamo Bay

Officials said in the court document that on Saipov’s cellphones they found about 90 IS videos with bomb-making instructions and showing beheading of prisoners and running them over with tanks.

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A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others is seen as New York City first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.VOA

White House, November 2, 2017 : President Donald Trump has called the Uzbek immigrant arrested in Tuesday’s terror attack that killed eight persons an “enemy combatant”. However, prosecutors filed terrorism charges against him in a civilian federal court.

Acting federal prosecutor Joon Kim announced the filing of the charges in the civilian federal court  on Wednesday, hours after Trump said that he would be open to sending Sayfullo Saipov to the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, where terrorists captured abroad are tried by military tribunals.

At the start of a cabinet meeting, in reply to a reporter’s question about the possibility of Saipov being sent to Guantanmo, Trump said: “Send him to Gitmo — I would certainly consider that, yes.”

Sending Saipov, 29, a legal immigrant with a green card, to Guantanamo for a military trial may raise legal questions while labelling him an “enemy combatant” may open the way for this.

Guantanamo, known as Gitmo for short, is a US military base in Cuba — in territory under American control.

Saipov mowed down pedestrians and bicyclists with a rented truck on Tuesday. The rampage ended when the truck hit a school bus.

After he emerged from it brandishing two fake guns, a police officer shot and arrested him.

Six of those killed were foreign tourists. Twelve people were injured.

The initial charges filed against Saipov are only about providing support to a terrorist organisation, the Islamic State (IS), and operating a motor vehicle in a manner that caused a death.

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These charges were meant to hold him in custody. More serious charges about the killing of eight people and other actions were expected later.

New York state does not have death penalty but because he is charged in a federal court and not a state court, Saipov can face capital punishment under federal laws.

The court papers said Saipov told officials in hospital that he felt “good” about what he had done and asked them to put an IS flag in his hospital room.

He told the officials that he was inspired by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and had planned the attack more than a year ago, choosing Halloween day because he thought he could do the maximum damage then.

About a week before the attack, he told the officers, he had made a trial run of the area near the 9/11 memorial and had planned to continue his attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. But he could not because of the collision with the school bus.

Officials said in the court document that on Saipov’s cellphones they found about 90 IS videos with bomb-making instructions and showing beheading of prisoners and running them over with tanks.

Earlier at a news conference, New York Police Counter-terrorism Deputy Commissioner John Miller said Saipov “appears to have followed almost to a ‘T’ the instructions that IS has put out” for carrying out vehicle attacks. (IANS)