As of Friday, the Islamic State had claimed three times that Stephen Paddock, the man who carried out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, was one of their soldiers. Despite offering no concrete evidence of Paddock’s allegiance to their caliphate and despite U.S. law enforcement insisting there was no link between the killer and ISIS, the group continues to insist that he was one of theirs. And in the absence of any – ANY – hint of motive coming out of the investigation, more than a few observers are beginning to wonder what the truth really is.
In the latest edition of the official ISIS Al-Naba online magazine, the terrorist organization said that Paddock “converted to Islam six months ago,” changing his name to Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki and declaring himself a “soldier of the caliphate.”
“A soldier of the caliphate attacked a gathering of 22,000 Americans at a concert in the city of Las Vegas, resulting in nearly 60 killed and 600 injured,” the magazine said. “Brother Abu Abdul Barr stationed himself in a room on the 32nd floor of a hotel overlooking the concert and opened fire continuously on the crowds using 23 firearms and more than 2,000 bullets and died, may Allah accept him, after running out of ammunition.”
Nothing ISIS has reported about Paddock has been anything they couldn’t have gleaned from mainstream media news reports, leading law enforcement and U.S. officials to assume that the group is taking credit for an attack they had nothing to do with. And that may very well be the case. ISIS is on the ropes in Syria, their stronghold in Iraq is all but destroyed, and the swelling power they had a couple of years ago has been substantially diminished by the new Trump administration. To think they might want to use an attack like this for some “credibility” among their waning supporters is not much of a stretch.
“There is no indication that there is any link whatsoever. They claim a lot of things,” a U.S. official told Newsweek magazine.
But see, that’s the thing. A lot of people had the same reaction after ISIS initially took credit for the attack. “Oh, of course they did. Next, they’ll be claiming credit for Hurricane Irma.” The truth, however, is that ISIS doesn’t really have a history of claiming credit for attacks that weren’t there’s. That’s not to say they never do it – there has been no evidence connecting them to the hotel shooting in the Philippines, for instance – but it’s rarer than U.S. officials are letting on. And for them to make the claim three times, complete with giving Paddock a made-up Islamic name and setting a date for his supposed conversion…that would be well out of character for ISIS.
We have no idea what the truth might be, and we’re not about to put our faith in a group that has made its name on terrorism, lies, and mass murder. But the longer we go without any established motive, the stranger Paddock’s crime becomes. Something drove him to carry out this heinous attack – one that was thoroughly planned and well-researched. As we wait to find out what that something was, the fact that ISIS continues to insist on their claim of responsibility can’t help but make us wonder…