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Hundreds Killed In Grisly Attacks Tied To Islamic State During Ramadan

  • RFE/RL

A gunman killed dozens of people at a Tunisian beach resort, a suicide bomber blasted away dozens more at a mosque in Kuwait, and Islamic militants massacred hundreds of civilians in separate battles in Syria and Somalia June 26.

The Pentagon said it was too early to tell if the astonishing string of attacks were coordinated, but the Islamic State is claiming responsibility for most, and they all came after the militant group urged supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan.

Thirty-nine mostly European tourists who had been sunbathing and swimming were shot dead at the packed Mediterranean resort of Port el Kantaoui after a man pulled out a gun hidden inside a beach umbrella, with IS later claiming responsibility on Twitter.

IS said it also was behind the suicide bombing at a Shi'ite mosque in a rare terrorist incident in Kuwait in which 27 people were killed.

But it left no question who was behind the massacre of civilians in Syria and Somalia. Islamic State fighters mowed down 164 civilians in the Syrian town of Kobani as they sought to retake the town from Kurdish forces, in what human rights groups said was one of the worst days of killings in the Syrian war.

That came as Al-Shebab miltants hoisted a black Islamic flag over an African Union base in Somalia after killing and beheading more than 50.

The astonishing display of bloodshed came in the middle of the Ramadan holy month and with the approach of the first anniversary of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria and Iraq on June 29.

While most Muslims mark the holy month as a time of peaceful charitable giving and fellowship with friends, IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani on June 23 called on Muslims to use Ramadan as an opportunity to engage in jihad and become martyrs.

"The best acts that bring you closer to God are jihad, so hurry to it, and make sure to carry out the invasion this holy month and be exposed to martyrdom in it," Adnani said in an audio message posted online.

The unprecedented bloodletting that followed June 26 began with Al-Qaeda affiliated Shebab's dawn raid on the remote Somalian base. Witnesses said as many as 50 people were beheaded and killed in Lego village, 100 kilometers northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The act of beheading has become a hallmark of the Islamic State and groups that either mimic it or pledge allegiance to it.

In the day's next event, an Islamic extremist in France rammed a car into a gas factory owned by U.S. firm Air Products near Lyon. The severed head of a businessman identified as the suspect's boss by police was found attached to the gates of the factory.

The alleged attacker, named by police as Yassin Salhi, had links to radical forms of Sunni Islam and appeared to have been trying to blow up the plant by releasing explosive gases.

French President Francois Hollande said Arabic inscriptions were found on the headless body, while Islamist flags were displayed around the head.

"The intent was without doubt to cause an explosion. It was a terrorist attack," Hollande said.

Shortly after the attack in France, a man sauntered onto the beach in a sun-soaked Tunisian resort carrying a beach umbrella, pulled out a Kalashnikov assault rifle and massacred 39 tourists before being killed by police.

The day's fourth attack hit Kuwait. where a suicide bomber entered a Shi'ite mosque in the capital during Friday prayers, killing 27 people and wounded more than 200. An IS affiliate in Saudi Arabia claimed the first such attack in the wealthy Gulf state in nearly a decade.

As radical Sunnis, Islamic State adherents consider Shi'ites to be heretics. They have repeatedly attacked Shi'ite mosques in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

All of the incidents showed how profoundly the Islamic State is influencing events and radicalizing Muslims around the world, scholars say.

"The ISIS brand has overtaken the al-Qaeda brand as something that motivates and excites. They are certainly trying to incite more attacks around the world" through their adroit use ot social media, said Paul Salem, a vice president at The Middle East Institute in Washington.

In the few years since the Islamic State emerged as a particularly brutal offshoot of Al-Qaeda, it has quickly become the "biggest global security threat" worldwide, and just about anyone who doesn't adhere to the same retrograde brand of Islam is a potential target, he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Islamic State has become a "death cult" and expressed outrage at the mayhem it is creating.

"They are urging their supporters to kill, and all you need to commit terror is a knife, a flag, a camera phone and a victim. This is the grim reality the world is facing," he said.

"We may not feel we are at war with them, but they certainly feel they are at war with us," Abbott said. "We are doing everything we can to destroy the death cult Daesh."

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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