Islamic State claims responsibility for attack on Texas Muhammad exhibit


(JTA) — The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on a Texas building housing an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad organized by an anti-Islamic organization.

In an audio statement Tuesday, the Islamist State, or ISIS, said that “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the Sunday night attack in Garland. Both gunmen were shot dead by police.

It was the first time that ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack in the United States. The statement threatened future attacks.

“We tell America that what is coming is more bitter and harder and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what harms you,” the statement reportedly said.

A security guard was injured in the leg in the incident, which occurred at the end of the event at a community center. There were no injuries among the 200 people in the center.

The gunmen have been identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both of Phoenix, Arizona. Simpson has been under U.S. government surveillance since 2006 and was arrested in 2010 for attempting to join a jihadist group in Somalia, unnamed government sources told Reuters. FBI agents and police searched the homes of the two suspects.

The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative headed by Pamela Geller, who recently sued the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority to force the agency to run the group’s ad on buses and subways. The ad showed a Palestinian man wrapped in a traditional keffiyeh saying “Killing Jews brings us closer to Allah.”

More than 350 caricatures of Muhammad were submitted to the contest.

“This is war on free speech,” Geller said in a Facebook post following the attack. “What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

The keynote speaker was the anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who late last month spoke on Capitol Hill at the invitation of Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Louis Gohmert, R-Texas.

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