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Homeland Security

IS Claims Responsibility in Texas Shooting

by VOA News May 05, 2015

The Islamic State militant group is claiming responsibility for Sunday's attack on a convention center outside Dallas, Texas, where a contest for cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad was taking place.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on the Islamic State claim but Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that authorities were investigating the men's motives and all circumstances surrounding the attack.

The extremist group made the announcement Tuesday on its radio station, saying 'two of the soldiers of the caliphate' carried out Sunday's attack on a free speech event in the town of Garland.

'We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter,' the Islamic State group said in its statement, the first time it had claimed responsibility for an attack on U.S. soil.

IS link unknown

It was unclear whether the group had an actual hand in planning the operation, or whether the two suspects had pledged allegiance to the group and carried out the attack on their own.

Police have identified the assailants in the attack as Elton Simpson, 31, and Nadir Soofi, 34, who shared an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona. The pair opened fire on the conference center, wounding a security guard, before they were shot and killed by a Garland police officer.

Court documents show that Simpson had been under surveillance since 2006 and convicted in 2010 of lying to FBI agents over his desire to join violent jihad in Somalia.

FBI agents and police searched the two men's home in Phoenix, cordoning off the apartment complex and evacuating residents for several hours.

Simpson's father, Dunston, told ABC News his son was 'always a good kid' but said they had 'some very serious differences.'

Dunston Simpson said in the interview that his son, who he said worked in a dentist's office, simply 'made a bad choice.'

'We are Americans and we believe in America,' Dunston Simpson said. 'What my son did reflects very badly on my family.'

Joe Harn, a spokesman for the Garland, Texas, police department said that while the motivation for the attack remains unknown, 'obviously they were there to shoot people.' Police found ammunition and luggage in the attackers' car, but no bombs despite initial suspicions.

An organization called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, also known as Stop the Islamization of America. sponsored the event, which offered a $10,000 prize for the winner.

Artist Bosch Fawstin, a New York native born to Albanian Muslim immigrants, won for a depiction of a sword-wielding prophet in a turban shouting, 'You can't draw me.'

'Freedom of speech'

AFDI executive director Pamela Geller told CNN the event was 'about freedom of speech.' The group's website said more than 350 cartoons were submitted to 'show that Americans will not be cowed by violent Islamist intimidation.'

A bomb squad, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a SWAT team and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been involved in preparations for security around the event for months, Garland police said. The group reportedly paid $10,000 for the extra protection.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which maintains data on hate groups throughout the United States, calls AFDI an 'anti-Muslim extremist' organization.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a critic of Islam who said last week the United States should ban Muslim immigrants, was the keynote speaker at Sunday's event. He mentioned on Twitter the shots being fired and said he left the building after his address.

Many Muslims find depictions of the Prophet Muhammad to be insulting to Islam. The issue has sparked tensions with those who see the drawings as a free speech issue.

In January, two gunmen attacked the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had featured multiple cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, killing 12 staff members.

Other Western attacks

There also have been numerous attack in other Western countries believed related in some way to the group, which holds roughly a third of Iraq and Syria.

In October, Canada was hit by two terror attacks by so-called 'lone wolves' believed to have been inspired by the Islamic State group.

In Ottawa, a gunman shot and killed a soldier at Canada's National War Memorial and then stormed Parliament before being gunned down.

Two days earlier, a man ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death by police.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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