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Monday, March 27, 2017, 16:00

London attack bears IS ‘signature’ but no clear link

By Reuters
London attack bears IS ‘signature’ but no clear link
In this March 22, 2017 file photo, the attacker Khalid Masood is treated by emergency services outside the Houses of Parliament London. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP, File)
CAIRO – The " Islamic State soldier " who killed four people in an attack on the British parliament may have been inspired by calls to arms against the West but the militant group has given no evidence yet that he acted on specific instructions.

Almost 24 hours after the killings, the group issued a brief statement calling Masood one of its soldiers. But it offered no details to suggest that Islamic State's leadership knew of his plans in advance

British-born Muslim convert Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians in his car and stabbed a policeman to death in a high-profile killing which echoed other deadly attacks in Europe claimed by the ultra-hardline Islamists.

Almost 24 hours after the killings, the group issued a brief statement calling Masood one of its soldiers. But it offered no details to suggest that Islamic State's leadership – losing ground to enemies in Syria and Iraq – knew of his plans in advance.

That in itself does not rule out coordination between Masood and militants in the shrinking, self-styled caliphate. Islamic State frequently delays releasing video footage or other material showing the planning and implementation of operations.

But the nature of Wednesday's killings, carried out by a single assailant armed only with a hired car and a knife, matched a pattern of recent attacks which require no training, military expertise or outside guidance.

READ M ORE: London attacker Khalid Masood was a criminal with militant links

Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adnani called on sympathizers across the world to carry out exactly those kind of attacks in an appeal issued when the group was at the peak of its power in late 2014.

ISLAMIC STATE SIGNATURE

British counter-terrorism police say they are still trying to establish whether Masood, a criminal with militant links, acted alone, with support or under instruction of others.

He had shown up on the periphery of previous terrorism investigations that brought him to the attention of Britain's MI5 spy agency, but the 52-year-old was not under investigation at the time of the attack.

London attack bears IS ‘signature’ but no clear link
Rita Katz, founder of the intelligence firm SITE which monitors Islamist militants, said there was no evidence yet that Masood had been in direct contact with Islamic State.

Shortly after the attack, Katz tweeted that some Islamic State supporters were celebrating. "However, unlike #Paris & #Brussels, no organized media campaign from #ISIS yet which may suggest no coordination w ISIS , if linked at all".

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That may in part reflect the reduced activities of Islamic State and its sympathizers on social media – a decline which coincides with its territorial losses in Iraq and Syria.

The group's presence on Telegram, a social media network that had become its main platform for announcements and speeches, has tapered off recently.

The US-led anti-Islamic State coalition estimates that its activity on Twitter has fallen by 45 percent since 2014, with 360,000 of the group's Twitter accounts suspended so far and new ones usually shut down within two days.

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