Three carefully timed "Bloody Friday" attacks that spanned three continents are leading U.S. intelligence agencies to reconsider an earlier opinion that the Islamic State is mostly a "regional threat."
The National Counterterrorism Center and the CIA are working together to determine if the murders at a French industrial plant
, the mass shootings of swimsuit-clad beachgoers at a Tunisian beach resort
, and the suicide bombing at a Kuwaiti mosque
were coordinated by ISIS [also known as ISIL] leaders or carried out by "lone wolves" in the name of the militant group, reports Politico.
But either way, the attacks will likely change how the United States and the Obama administration deals with ISIS attacks in three countries on Friday, which officials suspect may have been directed — or at least heavily influenced — by the militant group.
Earlier this year, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that ISIS was a regional threat that would probably only conduct operations in the Middle East, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey called ISIS "an internal conflict, internal to Islam."
ISIS is becoming a global threat because of its ability to "evangelize followers, said retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who helped create the U.S. military campaign against al-Qaida.
"This will only continue unless something is done to destroy ISIL and reduce its appeal to the extremist fringe in the Islamic community," he commented.
The timing of the attacks was not coincidental, said California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The day of attacks were launched after ISIS pushed followers to "rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels," leading to fears of attacks during the Muslim holy month that started on June 17. The "bloody Friday" also came just days before ISIS will celebrate its first anniversary of when its leaders declared intentions to establish a caliphate in its controlled territories.
"These attacks show that the [ISIS] threat is spreading well beyond Iraq and Syria," Royce told Politico. "A continued safe-haven there means more attacks across the region, Europe and even here at home."
Royce called for more targeted airstrikes, as well as finding a way to destroy ISIS' ability to target young people online and sending a counter message that "ISIS offers no peace, no community, and no future."
Meanwhile,the White House offered a statement of solidarity with the governments of France, Kuwait, and Tunisia in the wake of the attacks, and offered support if necessary.
In France, a suspect claimed he was a member and a terrorist flag was found at the attack scene, and ISIS boasted online about the attack, claiming responsibility.
Counterterrorism experts says ISIS may not need to exercise much coordination to pull off such attacks, as the terror group's leaders can simply use social media to make a general call for worldwide attacks.
"We do know that ISIL encourages lone wolf attacks," Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, responsible for the Middle East, told reporters at the Pentagon this week."They urged their regional affiliates to conduct attacks against Western and coalition interests and Shia population centers, but it’s really too early to tell whether they were involved in these attacks."
ISIS may also be moving away from al Qaida's method of waging large attacks, such as the Sept. 11 events, Western officials fear, meaning that the attacks could come more frequently, but with less warning.
The attacks came a day after House Intelligence Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, citing ISIS, proposed legislation to create a special office on the Department of Homeland Security to counter the spread of violent extremism.
"We have arrested more people in the United States this year who have been inspired by [ISIL] than there are officials working to keep [the group] from radicalizing Americans," McCaul said.
The Texas Republican has proposed legislation to create a special Department of Homeland Security office to counter violent extremism.
"Terrorists at home and overseas are bringing the battle into our homes through the internet," he said. "We cannot afford to complacently watch the threats mushroom. It is time for action, and to treat this issue like the priority that it is."
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