Suspected jihadis in Canada and France launched attacks hours apart — days after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s call to unleash bloodshed against “crusaders” in the West — raising fears of more lone-wolf strikes.
In Marseille, France, a man shouting “Allahu akbar” knifed two young women to death yesterday outside the city’s main train station — slitting one woman’s throat and stabbing the other before French soldiers on guard at the station shot and killed the man.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, authorities said a 30-year-old Somali man — who in 2015 was investigated by national police for “espousing extremist ideology” — hit a cop with a car, stabbed the officer and later hit four pedestrians with a moving truck he sped through the city. No one died in the two Canadian attacks.
Terrorism analyst Colin Clarke of the RAND Corp. said the twin attacks could build momentum for those radicalized adherents of ISIS waiting for the right time and place to answer its leader’s call.
“There’s something to the cluster effect, especially with social media, as someone sees this reverberate from what one person did and follow suit,” Clarke told the Herald.
Northeastern University terrorism expert Max Abrahms said the bloodshed could pull ISIS followers off the sidelines.
“It may well be that certain individuals who were already radicalized and just waiting for the opportunity to strike will be incentivized to strike now given there’s an uptick in violence,” Abrahms said.
Audio released Thursday of al-Baghdadi — the first the world has heard of him in nearly a year amid unconfirmed rumors of his death — called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to launch attacks. Al-Baghdadi urged jihadis, “Do not lay down your arms,” urging them to even target the media as it wages “intellectual wars.”
“Fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner, and stand fast and courageous,” al-Baghdadi said in the undated recording. “Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed.”
ISIS rushed to claim responsibility for the Marseille killings, claiming the assailant was acting in response to the terrorist group’s calls to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS extremists in Syria and Iraq, according to its Aamaq news agency.
Edmonton police said the cop who fought off the attacker outside Edmonton’s football stadium was released from the hospital “in good spirits” with abrasions to his arms and stab wounds to his face and head.
The attacker, who police have not named, is under arrest and due to be charged with multiple terrorism-related crimes, police said.
Abrahms said he expects to see “sporadic flashes of violence in random places” like this as U.S. and allies root the terrorist group out of its Syrian capital in Raqqa. He added: “There are these flashes of violence, but you can lose the larger story that the organization is imploding.”
Clarke said the attacks, however deadly, suggest ISIS’ capabilities have been degraded from the large, complex operations like Paris in November 2015 or Brussels in March 2015.
The attacks aren’t “proof that ISIS is more potent — it’s pretty impotent,” he said. “If the leader of the Islamic State who hasn’t been heard of in a year issues a grand declaration for more attacks and you get two measly terror attacks in Edmonton and Marseille, that’s a pretty pathetic following.”
Clarke said ISIS is fighting to stay alive and is pivoting from being an insurgent group that controlled territory to an underground, clandestine terror group.
“That doesn’t spell out the end of the Islamic State but they are regrouping,” Clarke said, “and it’s going to be quite a while before they turn into anything formidable.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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