German Authorities Walk Back Claims of Munich Shooter's Ties to Anders Breivik
A claim made by Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae yesterday that the shooter in Friday's killings in Munich, German-Iranian dual citizen Ali Daoud Sonboly, had an "obvious link" to Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik -- a claim that international media and terrorism experts ran with hard -- is now being walked back by German authorities.
Regarding the Sonboly/Breivik claim, United Press International reported today:
Investigators are now discounting previous statements that the shooter had researched the massacre in Norway by Anders Breivik, which took place on the same day in 2011.
The actual reporting about the alleged connection was pretty thread-bare to begin with:
The gunman, who has been identified as Ali Sonboly, is said to have researched mass-casualty attacks and had an obsession with shooting sprees, including the 2011 massacre in Norway carried out bythe rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik.
Nonetheless the international media ran with the Sonboly/Breivik connection with near abandon:
— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 23, 2016
— CNN (@CNN) July 23, 2016
German police declare 'link' between Munich shooter and Anders Breivik https://t.co/UhbPgGTNwR — The Independent (@Independent) July 24, 2016
#Germany gun attack creeps into haunting shadows of Anders Breivik https://t.co/g00pNIL6ix pic.twitter.com/K7FFSdlWdG — Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) July 24, 2016
But now it seems even some of those media outlets are walking back the Sonboly/Breivik connection. Compare the headline change on the BBC's same report from yesterday (above) and today (below):
As media outlets were running with the police chief's incendiary claim, some were warning, including myself, that past incidents should give caution to such information:
#pt E.g. virtually everything French authorities initially put out abt Nice killer has fallen apart, i.e. lone attacker, radicalized quickly — Patrick Poole (@pspoole) July 23, 2016
Others observed that German authorities had serious credibility issues after covering up the mass sexual assault attacks across Germany on New Year's Eve by Middle East refugees:
German police would NEVER lie about migrant crime....well, except for that whole 1200 rapes on New Year's Eve thinghttps://t.co/fDNpW8lleW
— John Schindler (@20committee) July 23, 2016
That didn't stop some from using the now-discredited Sonboly/Breivik claim to attack others:
So allegedly Munich shooter linked to far right Christian extremist Breivik. Do all moderate right wingers & Christians now have to disown? — Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) July 23, 2016
Iranian shill Trita Parsi used the claim to attack Middle East expert Daniel Pipes:
Poor @TParsi. He tried to blame me for #Breivik but his own readers said no way. Real blame: https://t.co/Pr4vv0gFeb pic.twitter.com/GSNDHMLj49
— Daniel Pipes (@DanielPipes) July 23, 2016
And now it turns out that the claims that Sonboly acted alone may not have been accurate either, as reports are emerging that one of his friends has been arrested:
— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) July 24, 2016
It seems noteworthy in light of the media's "jumping the gun" on the alleged Breivik connection that there was reason for caution. One eyewitness to the shooting told CNN that Sonboly had been shouting "Allahu Akhbar" during the incident:
Even TIME magazine demonstrated some admirable caution:
Still, it seemed a bit early to call the case closed. When we spoke at police headquarters on Saturday afternoon, the chief conceded that his officers had not yet analyzed all the gunman’s computers and social media accounts. Nor had investigators been able to question all the witnesses of the rampage, one of whom told CNN that the gunman shouted Allahu Akbar – “God is great” – while firing his Glock into a crowd of people near a McDonald’s restaurant. Pressed on this point, Andrae was dismissive. “Even if he would have said this, it would not automatically indicate anything,” he told me. “Not everyone who uses this saying, which is now famous around the world, is automatically linked to ISIS.”
Clearly not. That phrase is an everyday expression of faith for many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. But shouting it during a shooting spree is also a hallmark of Islamist violence, one of the few reliable signs that investigators have at a time when the very idea of what is terrorism and what is crime has become increasingly hard to pin down. That is the reality ISIS has helped create. In their propaganda, the group’s leaders have been happy to claim responsibility for any atrocity their death cult inspires, even when the perpetrator has had no discernible ties to the group other than the vague and virtual relationship often referred to as “self-radicalization.”
So while the Munich chief was quick to dismiss any ties to ISIS, he was quick to run with the Breivik claim. Now that they're walking back the claim, the credibility of German authorities is even more damaged.
In light of the initial information released by French authorities following the attack in Nice two weeks ago that has now been directly contradicted, and even going back to the Colorado theater shooting by James Holmes in 2012 whom ABC News falsely identified as a Tea Party member, it would seem that the media and terrorism experts would have learned to show some caution.
Alas, that apparently is not the case.