One of the gunmen who attacked a Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) cartoon competition in Texas was in repeated contact with an American supporter of the Islamic State (IS) group, terror experts said.
The contest was organised and sponsored by Pamela Geller. The wealthy housewife-turned-blogger has become one of America’s loudest voices against what she sees as the creeping “Islamisation” of America. Geller is president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative as well as Stop Islamisation of America.
The wild rhetoric of Geller’s group prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to add her group to its list of “hate groups,” calling her the “anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.” The contest that sparked the shootings offered a $10,000.00 prize for the “winning cartoon” depicting the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).
Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, an American who joined IS and may be fighting in Somalia, reportedly spoke on Twitter with Elton Simpson before Simpson allegedly joined the attack in the Dallas suburb of Garland and was killed by police.
Suspected gunmen Simpson, 31, and Nadir Soofi, 34, attacked the cartoon contest Sunday, wounding a security guard before being shot dead in their turn. The US government is probing their radical links.
Depictions of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) are offensive to many Muslims and have prompted attacks in the past.
Hassan is believed to have used the name Mujahid Miski in his discussion of attacks with Simpson. These included public tweets and private messages, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a private watchdog.
“Miski was online talking about Charlie Hebdo and how people in the US had to do similar things,” terrorism expert David Ibsen, of separate group the Counter Extremism Project, told AFP Wednesday.
In January, 12 people were gunned down in an attack on the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which had also published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).
The now suspended account believed to belong to Simpson posted and endorsed numerous pro-IS messages and communicated with alleged IS fighters in the field.
“Upon Simpson’s final tweet and news of the attack being announced across media outlets, Miski celebrated Simpson as both a martyr and a friend,” SITE director Rita Katz wrote, in an analysis of Simpson’s communications.
Private messages between the pair showed that Simpson was prepared to go to Syria to fight before carrying out the Texas attack, according to files obtained by the FBI and reported by the ABC television station.
Simpson was sentenced to three years’ probation in 2011 after lying to the FBI about plans to travel to Somalia. MEE