ISIS Claims Responsibility For Attack On Orlando Nightclub NPR's Audie Cornish talks with New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi about the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Attack On Orlando Nightclub

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Attack On Orlando Nightclub

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NPR's Audie Cornish talks with New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi about the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.


We're going to take a look now at the connection ISIS may have with the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend. So far, officials say they suspect the shooter was inspired by ISIS but was not actually part of a terrorist network. Still, the shooter pledged loyalty to ISIS in calls to 911, and the self-declared Islamic State has reportedly claimed credit for the shooting. FBI Director James Comey said this attack demonstrates the difficulty in stopping so-called lone wolves.


JAMES COMEY: Our work is very challenging. We are looking for needles in a nationwide haystack. But we're also called upon to figure out which pieces of hay might someday become needles.

CORNISH: Earlier, I talked via Skype with Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times. She says the shooter's pledge to support ISIS is part of a larger pattern.

RUKMINI CALLIMACHI: ISIS has made clear to their adherents outside of Iraq and Syria that if they want to do an attack in their name, really all they need to do is before carrying out the act of violence they need to pledge an oath of allegiance to the group. And it needs to be public. And here we're seeing a 911 call that was placed in the midst of this bloody attack in which he claims allegiance to the group.

CORNISH: So explain to us exactly how ISIS did take responsibility for this particular attack.

CALLIMACHI: The first claim of responsibility came through the Amaq News Agency, which has become ISIS' wire service, if you will. So the attack happened at around 2 a.m. on June 12. And around 2 p.m. of that day, they claimed responsibility on an encrypted chat called Telegram. And from there it was propagated on Twitter and other social media forums.

Today, they then claimed credit again. And this time it was on their official radio station. This is the same sequence of events that we saw after San Bernardino, where Amaq was the first and then it followed up with the group's official radio station.

CORNISH: So is ISIS claiming direct contact with the shooter in some way or direct operational support?

CALLIMACHI: No, they're not. I mean, it's unclear. What is interesting is that they're using language that is slightly different from San Bernardino. When San Bernardino was claimed by the Amaq News Agency, they described the couple as supporters of the Islamic State. In the first claim of responsibility for Orlando, they're describing him as a fighter for the Islamic State.

CORNISH: This all comes after an ISIS spokesman last month actually made a speech calling for followers to commit acts of terror during Ramadan and specifically against America. How does that fit into all this?

CALLIMACHI: The holy month of Ramadan, which began last week, has traditionally been a time of ramped-up activity for these terrorist groups, not just for ISIS but also for al-Qaida. The reason is that they believe that this month is holy, and therefore an act of jihad against the enemy is going to reap greater rewards for them.

So the spokesman of ISIS issued a statement last month where he very clearly called on their adherents in the West - and he specifically names America and Europe - to take it upon themselves to carry out acts of violence against the infidel. And he has an interesting quote in there where he says no act will be considered too small.

And I think what he's doing is he's trying to appeal to isolated people who may not have the means to carry out something very impressive. And in previous speeches, he's essentially said that you can use a knife, you can use a rock to smash the head of an infidel, you can even use a car to try to ram into them, and that all of those acts would be considered part of the larger jihad.

CORNISH: And are people around the world watching these speeches? I mean, far is their reach?

CALLIMACHI: I don't have an idea of how far the reach is. But what we do know is, you know, in the two years since ISIS declared its caliphate, they are now releasing these speeches in more and more languages. Now they're putting them out in Arabic, in English, in French, sometimes in Russian, in Turkish. And so you have to assume that they're doing this because at some level they have an audience among those linguistic groups.

CORNISH: Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times. Thank you for sharing your reporting with us.

CALLIMACHI: Thank you.

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