Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed the shooting at Champs Elysee within hours, suggesting the jihadist group knew the gunmen and could have directed the attack.
Isil described the attacker, named as Karim Cheurfi, as one of the group’s “fighters” Abu Yussuf al-Belgiki “the Belgian”, in a statement release by its official Amaq news agency.
Cheurfi, 39, shot three police officers near the Paris tourist site, killing one and injuring two.
It could be that the French national spent time in Belgium to earn the nickname, much like Brahim Abdeslam, who took part in the November 2015 Paris attacker. The Belgium-to-Paris terrorist route is well-established.
The Isil statement was unusually specific and was released just two and a half hours after the shooting, a record speed for claim of responsibility of attacks on Western targets.
Some who kill in Isil’s name have simply pledged allegiance to the group and acted on its general call to arms, while others have had guidance on everything from the target, to the method and the timing.
In the case of the Istanbul bombing last New Year’s Eve, the assailant was coached by Isil handlers, who funded and helped plan every stage of the attack on a popular nightclub.
In other instances, such as the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Florida, the connection was much more tenuous.
Experts say attackers are rarely operating in isolation.
“Even the inspired attacks have tended to occur within the context of a network—in other words, accomplices, which means by definition they are not “lone”,” says Kyle Orton, Middle East analyst at The Henry Jackson Society think-tank.
The downplaying of Isil’s direct role in the European attacks had deadly consequences last year when the connections between a series of plots in France were missed, and the diversion of the security forces helped open the way to the Nov 13, 2015 attacks in Paris that struck at the Stade de France with suicide bombers, shot-up restaurants, and slaughtered concert-goers at the Bataclan, leaving 130 people dead.
Thirty-one of the 38 Isil-related European plots have seen either online or in-person direction by Isil.
It is unclear if Cheurfi had travelled to Iraq or Syria, but the majority of attacks carried out in Isil’s name have been by homegrown terrorists.
As Isil comes under threat in the so-called caliphate they have encouraged foreign supporters not to travel but to carry out attacks at home.
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