Information is tumbling in about the attack on Navy facilities in Chattanooga this morning, in which shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed four Marines and wounded a police officer. And one of the first things to break in social media has been the connection of a series of Twitter taunts with the hashtag #ISIS, appearing to claim the Chattanooga attack.
The tweet stream is from an account user calling himself Abu Mohammad Khorasani, which itself is significant (more in a moment). His account appears to have been previously suspended, and a new one started only yesterday (15 July). There wasn’t much in it, until about 9:00 Eastern this morning (the 16th), when Khorasani began tweeting lists of places that would be attacked “soon.”
The account is likely to be suspended again; I’ll include a link, but assuming it won’t be there very long, I’m using screen-caps to display the tweets.
Less than an hour before the Chattanooga attack*, Khorasani tweeted the following (h/t: Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit):
He has continued to post bloodthirsty celebrations of the Chattanooga attack.
But it may be more significant that there’s evidence of actual attack planning – or, in the case of Egypt, an actual attack – at some of the other venues identified in the threat tweets from this morning.
In Egypt, an Egyptian patrol craft was hit, reportedly by a “high-powered rocket,” during an exchange of fire with a group of jihadis on the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. This happened the morning of 16 July, with the Western media beginning to file stories about it right around 9 AM Eastern time.
The Daily Mail says the Egyptian navy is still reviewing the incident, and hasn’t determined for certain how the patrol craft was attacked. Eyewitnesses onshore have reported the rocket being launched at the ship, and that does appear to be the most likely explanation. (The navy’s alternative seems to involve jihadi swimmers planting something on the ship – not impossible, but certainly more complicated.)
The range between the ship and the jihadi group onshore was about 2 statute miles. The jihadis could easily have acquired modern rockets with either man-in-the-loop terminal guidance or infrared homing capability. Jihadis aren’t necessarily ill-armed today.
Media are all identifying the attackers as being affiliated with Islamic State, although a link has yet to be absolutely confirmed.
The attack on the Egyptian navy is a big deal, of course. ISIS hasn’t previously shown this kind of capability. (Although local militants in eastern Libya have already shown an ability to attack commercial ships, and have made attempts on the Libyan navy.)
The other ramp-up is in France, where the national holiday (on the 14th) has not gone smoothly. In Paris, nearly 250 people from the majority-Muslim “banlieues,” or distinctive neighborhoods, have been put in detention since Monday. Dozens of vehicles have been torched (which granted is a favorite New Year’s Eve pastime of French “youths”), and several police headquarters in the greater Paris area have come under sustained attack from projectiles by groups of as many as 100 at a time. An apartment was set on fire by a mortar-type projectile in the “commune” of Pontault-Combault. Special police are reportedly deployed to protect Jewish sites (e.g., synagogues)
On Wednesday evening, President Francois Hollande announced that French police had intercepted a terrorist plot to attack French military bases this week. (The plotters were apparently linked with a leader who was planning to assassinate a top French military officer in January 2016.)
There’s no saying yet whether new information will come out on specific attacks, planned or executed, against the other targets on Khorasani’s list. The mention of “Fallujah,” for example – which recurs in more than one tweet – is probably about the fight underway there since Iraqi militias launched a campaign to retake the city from Islamic State earlier this week. The hashtag #Draghi recurs several times as well, appearing to refer to Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank. (In one tweet, Draghi’s name comes right after a reference to the fiscal crisis in Greece.)
Khorasani’s handle, meanwhile, is the name of ISIS’s first suicide bomber in Afghanistan, who attacked in Jalalabad on 19 April.
ISIS was reported by the FBI to be planning attacks for the Independence Day weekend in the U.S. The planning doesn’t appear to have been confined to that weekend.
Not to be dismissed: the possibility that Islamic State is ramping up attacks overseas as the campaign to retake Anbar Province is inaugurated in Iraq. ISIS planners have shown a predilection for trying to create disruption elsewhere as a means of distraction. From Islamic State’s perspective, the JCPOA signed with Iran this week is a sign of complicity by the rest of the world in the Iranian-backed Shia strategy to retake Anbar.
Remember: Anbar Province is the Iraqi-side territory of Islamic State’s center of gravity, the “Euphrates Corridor.” The ISIS-held Euphrates Corridor runs from Fallujah to Raqqa, Syria, and is the indispensable territory that Islamic State must continue to hold in order to remain viable. ISIS is going to fight to the death for the Euphrates Corridor. What we’re seeing this week could well be the first salvos of an attempt to take the apocalyptic fight in Mesopotamia global.
* Update: It was clear from the time hacks on the tweets that they were not posting from a user account being operated in the Central or Eastern time zone. For this original post, I relied on Catherine Herridge’s report in the Bret Baier broadcast that the actual posting time of the first Khorasani tweet with the #Chattanooga hashtag occurred less than an hour before the Chattanooga attack. I just heard an update from Robert Spencer in the Hannity show that the posting time of that tweet was a Pacific time zone time hack, which would put it after the Chattanooga attack started.
That doesn’t actually mean Khorasani is in the Pacific time zone, of course. It appears his user account is set to the Pacific time zone. In any case, the series of his tweets still shows threats to multiple targets, some of which have actually seen potentially related events. I’m leaving the original text as-is, with this amplification.