Islamic State's claims of responsibility for terrorist attacks 'part of a smoke and mirrors campaign'
PM By Danny Tran
Posted about 2 hours ago
A policeman and forensic officer speak to a woman at the scene of a siege in Brighton at serviced apartments.
Photo: The attack in Brighton was reportedly dedicated to both Islamic State and Al Qaeda. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca )
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In the aftermath of terrorist acts, extremist groups often claim responsibility for orchestrating the attack — but what does that actually mean?
•Terrorists carry out attacks for a number of reasons, one of them is for propaganda
•Experts say IS claim ownership of attacks to cover up how badly they are doing militarily
•IS have outsourced their ideology, with people carrying out 'inspired attacks'
Yesterday's incident in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton was claimed by Islamic State (IS), as was the recent attack in London.
Jacinta Carroll, head of the Counter Terrorism Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said claims such as these were part of the smoke-and-mirrors campaign being waged by IS.
"They're doing very, very badly in their main base — the Middle East — where the so-called caliphate proclaimed only two-and-a-half, nearly three years ago, is no more," she said.
"[Islamic State] is largely defeated militarily, it is transitioning to be a normal guerrilla-style, on-the-run terrorist group.
"So it needs funds and frankly it needs some good news."
Killing is only one of the reasons terrorists carry out such attacks. The other is propaganda.
"That's propaganda to put their names into the headlines in order to achieve their ends," Ms Carroll said.
"In the case of Islamist extremist groups, that's to attract support, divert attention from their failings elsewhere."
Rise of the 'inspired attack'
The attack in Brighton was reportedly dedicated to both IS and Al Qaeda by the named man, Yacqub Khayre.
So how much did the gunman have to do with Islamic State?
Ms Carroll said there had been a shift in what we understand a claim of responsibility to mean.
She referred to well-known terrorist groups from the past, such as the IRA or Tamil Tigers and the ruling around when they would officially claim responsibility.
"Traditionally [they would claim an attack] because they were directly involved in planning and undertaking that attack in order to achieve their particular political end," she said.
But the rise of Islamic State has been seen as a game changer by people like Ms Carroll.
"They have this very outsourced approach to their ideology, to their membership and also their claimed terrorist attacks," she said.
She believes large Islamist extremist groups like IS have had little, direct involvement in Australian attacks.
And this incident, she said, was not like the direct attacks we have been used to, such as 9/11.
"What we're seeing, it appears — if the Brighton independent is seen to be a terrorist attack — is the inspired attack," she said.
"That's where a person heeds that distant call of a particular group of their ideology and undertakes some action purportedly in their name.
"Or even not done in their name, but claimed by that group."
Claiming attacks to 'change the narrative'
Dr Clarke Jones, a terrorism expert from the Australian National University, said this was an attempt by IS to change the narrative around its failure.
"It doesn't mean a lot, it shouldn't mean a lot," he said.
"The fact that Islamic State has now claimed responsibility for the incident is really about their grandstanding.
"And about trying to make themselves look bigger than they really are."
And he said the Yacqub Khayre should be regarded as nothing more than a violent offender with a history.
"We need to treat him like a criminal. Let's not link him up with Islamic State and give him any glory," he said.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton put little store in Islamic State's claim of responsibility.
"It's a statement made by them, factored that into this, but again it's the sort of thing they jump up and down and say a lot," he said.
"So we're not seeing anything at this stage indicating he's got some messages from overseas to do this at all.
"But again, early days, we've got materials that's seized, we'll go through all that and work that out."