Illustration by Max Fleishman

Islamic State claims responsibility for Orlando mass shooting, launches propaganda campaign

Islamic State supporters are highly active online after the Orlando killings.

 

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Tech

Published Jun 12, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 3:16 pm CDT

Hours after at least 50 people were killed and 53 were injured in one of the worst mass murders in American history, Islamic State supporters are claiming credit and celebrating on social media.

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The shooter, identified as Omar Mateen, reportedly called 911 and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before the mass killing at Pulse night club, a gay club in Orlando having a Latino night event.

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Mateen, 29, had been investigated twice by the FBI for connections to terrorism but no ties were confirmed, the New York Times reported

Amaq Agency, the Islamic State-supporting Internet news wire, reported the IS connection the killings. Amaq also claimed over 100 fatalities, which is false.

The “source” could be anything or anyone, including merely reading mainstream media covering the event.

Soon after the initial claims of responsibility, IS supporters published propaganda with wolf imagery, highlighting their “lone wolf” that executed this attack. 

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What that means is that Mateen likely was not part of any wider Islamic State cell and perhaps didn’t receive direct instructions from any Islamic State individual. Instead, he was individually inspired and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before his attacks.

There is no evidence that the Islamic State knew about the Orlando attack before it took place.

Islamic State supporters tried to launch a number of celebratory hashtags on Twitter but it appears they were being shut down in a deliberate effort by the social network. 

The following tweet, with ten such hashtags plus Photoshop propaganda warning of more violence, was deleted six minutes after it was published. It’s one example of at least dozens of Photoshopped images praising the attacks and promising worse in the future.

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Twitter

Such claims of responsibility for violence followed by propaganda and celebration are by now standard operating procedure for Islamic State supporters online. The group is notoriously active on Twitter and other social networks. Even as they are actively banned and messages are deleted, word continues to spread on networks like Telegram and elsewhere.

IS supporters also used hashtags like #Orlando to publish videos of violent incidents in Iraq and Syria, where the group continues to wage war in an attempt to further utilize the mass shooting as a means of promoting their extremism.

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*First Published: Jun 12, 2016, 5:42 pm CDT