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Triple Terror Attacks Give ISIS A Propaganda Boost

Speculation turned to ISIS when terror attacks hit three continents on Friday — giving it a big propaganda win even without clear proof that it was to blame.

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GAZIANTEP, Turkey — This coming Monday marks the anniversary of ISIS' declaration of its self-styled caliphate — just days before, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi climbed to the podium of a central mosque in the newly won Iraqi city of Mosul and declared himself the leader of global Islam. To the vast majority of Muslims, that's a laughable idea, but the headlines alone that day brought the group's stature to new heights.

ISIS has been working since to keep its reputation inflated with a mixture of shock propaganda and battlefield success. It had already called for an escalation of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 18. (Though it's important to note that it has also called for terror attacks constantly throughout the last year.) In an audio recording released on June 23, the group's spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, urged followers to turn Ramadan into a month of "calamity for the infidels." That this Ramadan call instantly became one of the main media narratives following Friday's attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait — even though the group had only, at least initially, claimed credit for the last — showed how easy it has become for ISIS to dominate the global discussion, and to instill panic and fear.

Though they struck around the same time on Friday, the attacks were distinct. In France, early reports put one man dead, reportedly beheaded when an assailant entered a U.S.-owned factory in the city of Grenoble. French President Francois Hollande said it was a "pure terrorist attack." The AP reported that the assailant had ties to Islamic extremists. But as the day went on it also reported that the victim, who was decapitated in the attack, had been the man's employer.

In Tunisia, where two gunmen opened fire on at least one seaside hotel, there were at least 37 dead, some of them foreign tourists.

And at least 16 were killed and dozens wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City — the only attack that ISIS immediately claimed. It was the group's first known attack in Kuwait, a country that has largely avoided the sectarian fighting being stoked in the rest of the region.

The day of bloodshed showed the reach of jihadi terrorists, whatever their allegiance, as the attacks took place on three continents at around the same time. It also showed how quickly ISIS can achieve its goal of instilling fear and showing strength — as its murky calls for Ramadan attacks were quickly linked to a series of attacks whose relation to one another, if any, was not initially clear.

It was a sentiment shared even by ISIS' enemies on the ground in the aftermath of the attacks. "ISIS is a threat not only to Syria, but to all the world," Osama Abu Zaid, a spokesperson for one of the rebel groups fighting ISIS, told BuzzFeed News.

The day of global bloodshed came on the heels of a particularly violent one inside Syria. On Thursday, ISIS attackers carried out their largest single massacre of civilians this year in the northern town of Kobane, on the Turkish border. The Kurdish town had gained global fame when U.S.-led airstrikes helped to roll back an ISIS attempt to seize it last fall. But on Thursday morning, ISIS attackers infiltrated the town and killed at least 146 civilians, according to one monitoring group.

The Kobane attack had the ring of revenge after Kurdish forces drove ISIS from the strategic border town of Tel Abyad earlier this month — and ISIS is facing renewed pressure across several fronts, particularly in Syria.

Far from the grueling fights in Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, Friday's attacks were a reminder of just how quickly ISIS can seize the media offensive internationally.

With additional reporting by Munzer al-Awad in Turkey

The attack in Kuwait today was carried out by a suicide bomber. An earlier version of this article mistakenly attributed the blast to a car bomb.


Mike Giglio is a correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in Istanbul. He has reported on the wars in Syria and Ukraine and unrest around the Middle East. His secure PGP fingerprint is DD2D D9F4 F1B5 204B 8069 3056 D916 4D69 9ED6 04D5

Contact Mike Giglio at mike.giglio@buzzfeed.com.

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