An Islamic State spokesman may have foreshadowed the attack on a French Bastille Day celebration in Nice that killed at least 73 people Thursday.
ISIS did not immediately claim credit for the horror touched off when officials said a cargo truck driver opened fire while ramming the truck into a crowd at the Promenade des Anglais. Yet pro-ISIS social media accounts immediately celebrated the horrific mass killing.
And terrorist spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani released a statement in September 2014 specifically mentioning vehicles as he urged ISIS sympathizers to carry out attacks on “disbelieving” Westerners.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” Adnani said,according to The Independent.
“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
ISIS and lone wolf attackers inspired by the group have carried out rafts of deadly attacks worldwide since Adnani made the pronouncement. Yet none followed Adnani’s instructions suggesting a vehicle itself as a weapon on a scale approaching the death toll in the French Riveria capital on the French national holiday.
Christian Estrosi, president of the region, later said the truck was loaded with firearms, grenades and other possible explosive devices. Suicide bombers who blow off their explosives from cars have also played a role in many terror attacks, most recently a string of three bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this month that authorities believe fit patterns of other ISIS attacks.
ISIS supporters celebrated the Nice attack on social media channels cited by The New York Times. Such accounts have celebrated past attacks found not to be connected to ISIS, but observers took note of the ecstatic posts shortly after news of the Nice attack broke Thursday night.
“Da’ish fanboys on social media are celebrating the #Nice attack with images like this one: ‘France under fire,'” one user tweeted, using an Arabic name for ISIS.
The U.S. Department of State designated Adnani as a terrorist the month before his statement calling for attacks on the West and announced a $5 million reward for information on him in May 2015. The ISIS spokesman is believed to be “one of the group’s most influential emirs (leaders),” accordingto the Counter Extremism Project.
An airstrike by American and Iraqi forces injured Adnani, prompting ISIS forces to move him to a hospital after he was seen to be “losing a large amount of blood,” CNN reported in early January. Yet a new audio message thought to be the voice of the terrorist spokesman surfaced in May.
“Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready … to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers … especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America,” Adnani said.
“The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us. If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic State, we wish we were in your place to punish the Crusaders day and night.”