The United States plunged into chaos over the weekend after the fatal shootings by police of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The shootings led to peaceful protests in Dallas, Texas which quickly turned deadly when a sniper launched an ambush-style attack against law enforcement, resulting in the deaths of five police officers.
On the evening of July 7, 2016, President Obama addressed the back-to-back shootings, stating that, “All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings” and that they were not isolated incidents.
“We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss,” he said.
Shortly following the attacks, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a militant Islamist organization based in Yemen, released their weekly newspaper, Al Masra, featuring an image taken from video documenting of the killing of Sterling by two police officers, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The image, which appeared in the 15th issue of the newspaper, showed two police officers on top of Sterling on the ground with one of them reaching for his gun. The caption under the picture reads, “American police officer shot a black US citizen after arresting him on July 6 in the state of Louisiana, leading to his death."
Next to the picture, the newspaper featured a quote attributed to Malcolm X, which states, “They – the white people – are able to use any type of brutality to oppress black people who, to them, are criminals anyway.”
This is not the first time a terrorist organization has used a violent attack in the United States as an opportunity to spread propaganda, recruit followers, and call for attacks.
As Homeland Security Today previously reported, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) social media group called upon ISIS supporters in the United States to use the protests over the shooting as a cover to carry out lone wolf attacks.
Al Nusra Al Maqdisiyya, a prominent group of pro-ISIS activists on social media, wrote on its Twitter account, "O lone mujahid, you must use the breakdown of security in #Ferguson to increase the burning in America. They are squabbling over worldly [matters], so you send them to hell! #ISIS.”
The threat of a lone wolf attack targeting the US homeland is a clear and present danger. Just days ago, MEMRI reported that Al Qaeda’s Al Sahab production company released a 21-minute audio message featuring Hamza bin Laden, theson of Osama bin Laden, who threatened further attacks on US soil.
Threatening the American people, he said, “We shall continue on this path and target you inside your country and outside it, in response to your oppression against the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and the rest of the lands of Islam.”
He also vowed to avenge the killing of his father, stating, “If you think that thecrime you perpetrated in Abotabbad has gone by with no reckoning – you are wrong. Yours is a harsh reckoning. We are a nation that does not rest over injustice.”
“O America, there’s no way you will enjoy security without the people of Palestine tasting it, nor will you enjoy life as millions of displaced persons search for their daily bread. The era of humiliation and defeat has gone, the era of glory and victory is upon us,” he added.
As the nation grapples with the hotly debated issues spurred by the recent shootings—including gun control, racism, and police brutality—we must remember that our enemies are watching and waiting.
As Sun Tzu wrote in his Art of War, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”