BEIRUT: Terror attacks across three continents Friday saw ISIS members or suspected sympathizers strike in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, days after the group’s spokesman called for stepping up violence during the month of Ramadan.
A separate attack by Al-Shabaab movement fighters in Somalia – affiliated with ISIS rival Al-Qaeda – saw fighters storm an African Union peacekeeper base, killing dozens of soldiers and civilians, officials said. The total death toll in the four attacks topped 100 people, while several hundred others were wounded.
The spectacular day of terrorist violence came three days after Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the official spokesman of ISIS, urged the group’s followers to step up attacks during the month of Ramadan.
“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.
“These are your weapons and this is Ramadan.”
The carnage also came one day after ISIS fighters in Syria stormed the town of Ain al-Arab on the Turkish border and went on a killing spree that ended up claiming the lives of 164 Syrian Kurds, in one of the worst atrocities carried out by the extremist group during that country’s conflict.
Friday’s day of terror began when an early morning raid in the village of Lego in Somalia by the Shabaab militants, who killed an estimated 50 people, beheading some of them.
Officials said the assault began with when a car bomb rammed the African Union base, manned by soldiers from Burundi.
A few hours later, a man rammed his car into a gas factory near the French city of Lyon. Police found the severed head of a local businessman – the employer of the attacker – attached to the gates of the facility, around it Islamist flags.
The dead man’s body was found bearing Arabic inscriptions, while the attacker was apprehended by a fireman, and several other people, including the attacker’s wife, were eventually taken into custody.
The next two attacks struck in Tunisia and Kuwait.
Near the city of Sousse in Tunisia, a man walked into a popular beach report holding an umbrella that concealed an assault rifle. He opened fire and killed 37 people, including foreign tourists from several different countries, before being gunned down by security personnel.The president of Tunisia visited the scene and promised that his government would take “painful but necessary” measures to stop future attacks, while adding that “no country is safe from terrorism, and we need a global strategy [by] all democratic countries.”
And during Friday prayers at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, a man
entered and detonated his suicide belt, killing 27 people and wounding over 220 others in the country’s deadliest attack in nearly a decade.
The ISIS affiliate in Saudi Arabia, which it calls Najd province, claimed responsibility for the attack, which follows several others targeting Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia.
ISIS supporters also tweeted photos purporting to show the Tunisia attacker, although it remained unclear if the extremist group was officially involved.
Politicians and officials around the world condemned the violence, while investigators focused on possible linkages.
The attacker in France was identified as Yassin Salhi, who had earlier been investigated by French authorities for his links to Salafi Islamist groups. Investigators declined to pursue further inquiries when they couldn’t link him to terrorist activity.
He was allowed into the premises of the gas factory because he regularly made deliveries there as a truck driver, investigators said.
The Kuwait attacker was named as Khaled al-Shammari, 26. Witnesses said he paused to look at the people in the mosque, shouted that he would be joining the Prophet Mohammad for iftar, and detonated his device.
Kuwait authorities reacted by declaring a day of mourning and ordering the suspension of broadcasting of an anti-Shiite television station, al-Wesal, according to media reports.
Leaders and intelligence agencies pored over any possible connections between the attacks – the initial indications pointed to ISIS’ global reach, without the atrocities necessarily being planned to take place simultaneously.
French President Francois Hollande, returning to Paris from an EU summit in Brussels, said “there is no other link other than to say that terrorism is our common enemy.”
Speaking to reporters in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said “this is a threat that faces all of us, these events that have taken place today in Tunisia and France, but they can happen anywhere – we all face this threat.”
And in the U.S., where President Barack Obama was being updated on the series of attacks, a State Department spokesman downplayed “tactical” links.
“I want to make clear I think there is a common thread here of extremist activity,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“But I don’t believe we’ve seen any evidence of tactical coordination ... between the attacks, or by any one or any number of individual terrorist organizations.”