France, Kuwait, Tunisia Attacks Suggest Islamic State Influence

Even if the three attacks were not coordinated, they may all have been inspired by the Islamic State.

Police in Paris, France, September 17, 2011
Police in Paris, France, September 17, 2011 (Rog01)

Islamists staged attacks on three continents on Friday, underscoring the potentially global reach of the Islamic State militant group.

The biggest attack occurred in Kuwait where a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Shia mosque in the capital city during Friday prayers, killing 27 people and injuring hundreds. The self-declared Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group did not claim responsibility for a shooting in Tunisia where 37 tourists were killed in the resort town of Sousse when a gunman opened fire on the beach. The assailant was shot dead by police.

Nor did there appear to be a direct connection with what French authorities described as a terrorist attack in Lyon. A radicalized French national rammed his delivery van into a warehouse containing gas canisters there, triggering an explosion, after beheading his boss and leaving the body at the site of an American-owned gas factory.

The suspect was detained by French police.

“There is no other link other than to say that terrorism is our common enemy,” said President François Hollande who returned to Paris from European talks in Brussels.

In January, Islamist gunmen killed seventeen people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

Two months ago, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said five terrorist attacks had been thwarted in France since then.

Even if the three attacks were not coordinated, the news agency Reuters reports they may have been inspired by the Islamic State’s recent call to jihad (holy way) or the one-year anniversary of its declaration of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria on Monday.

Unlike the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, Islamic State is not known to have an international organization. But its military successes against the Iraqi government have inspired would-be jihadists in the West. In the last year alone, lone radicalized Muslims have staged attacks in Copenhagen, Ottawa and Sydney.

Late last year, the Islamic State urged followers not to “wait for us to tell you what to do” and “kill infidels wherever you find them.”

The group rose to prominence when it conquered Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, a year ago, triggering a bloody sectarian conflict that spans the eastern half of Syria and the northwest of Iraq. Among its objectives are to erase the border between Iraq and Syria, drawn a century ago by European imperialists, and unite the Sunni Muslims living roughly between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in one state.

Last month, it added the Iraqi city of Ramadi to its territory, the capital of the mostly Sunni Anbar Province.

Arab and Western allies launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in August of last year. France is among the countries that carries out attacks on a daily basis. European countries have also supplied the semi-independent Kurdistan Regional Government in the north of Iraq with combat equipment to fight the militants.