Islamic State claims its ‘soldiers’ responsible for Barcelona attack

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has issued a short statement claiming responsibility for the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain earlier today. At least 13 people were killed and dozens more wounded when a van was driven through a crowd in the city. The so-called caliphate says that its adherents were responsible.

Citing a “security source,” Amaq claims the “perpetrators of the attack in Barcelona were Islamic State soldiers and the operation was carried out in response to appeals targeting coalition countries.”

Similar wording has been used in previous claims of responsibility. Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani, who was killed in Aug. 2016, and others in the group have repeatedly called on followers to strike those countries participating in the coalition that seeks to dislodge the jihadists from their strongholds. Amaq’s statement didn’t provide any additional details about the driver(s) of the vehicle.

The chaotic scene has led to conflicting reports about what transpired after the terrorist-driven van struck pedestrians on an avenue frequented by tourists.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of similar attacks relying on vehicles as instruments of mass terror. In at least one case, Amaq did not issue a claim of responsibility, but authorities identified the perpetrator as a jihadist affiliated with, or sympathetic to, the Islamic State. The attacks listed below are just those that used a van, truck or other vehicle as the principal weapon beginning in mid-2016.

On June 3, three terrorists attacked London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market, killing eight people and wounding nearly 50 others. They first drove their van into pedestrians on the bridge, then jumped out and made their way to an area filled with restaurants and pubs. The trio wildly stabbed at their victims before being shot dead by police.

On Apr. 7, a 39 year-old Uzbek man named Rakhmat Akilov drove a hijacked beer truck into another crowd of people in Stockholm, Sweden. Four people were killed and more than a dozen injured. “We know he has shown sympathies to extreme groups, among them ISIS,” said Jonas Hysing, the national police spokesman, according to CNN. “We won’t comment any further on that.” Akilov’s lawyer subsequently said his client had admitted to committing a “terrorist crime.” However, Amaq apparently did not issue a claim of responsibility for Akilov’s assault.

On Mar. 22, Khalid Masood, a 52 year-old man who was born in the UK, drove his vehicle into a crowd near the British parliament. He then jumped out and assaulted others with a blade. Masood killed several people and wounded dozens before he was shot dead by a police officer.

On Dec. 19, 2016, Anis Amri, a Tunisian, drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, leaving a dozen people dead and wounding more than 50 others. Amaq News Agency subsequently released a video of Amri pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Amri was killed during a shootout with Italian police in Milan on Dec. 23.

On Nov. 28, 2016, another similar assault was carried out at Ohio State University, when a Somali refugee, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove his car into a crowd of people before exiting the vehicle and using a knife to assault his victims. Artan was quickly shot dead by a campus police officer.

On July 14, 2016, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian man living in France, drove a lorry into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France. More than 80 people were killed and hundreds more injured. Bouhlel was shot and killed by French police officers.

Still other, less successful jihadist attacks have also relied vehicles as the main weapon.

In its propaganda, the self-declared caliphate has repeatedly called on supporters to use vans or trucks against civilians.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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