As Strasbourg’s Christmas market reopens today following Tuesday’s deadly attack, an ISIS-supporting media group disseminated an image of Santa riddled with bullets in the city’s center.
The poster shows a nighttime depiction of Place Kléber, the central square in Strasbourg, France, as a jihadist with a rifle propped against his shoulder surveys the scene. A Christmas tree is in flames behind the body of Santa.
“Beat him violently,” says the text in French. “Be sure to inflict the greatest losses on the enemy.”
A fourth victim has died from wounds suffered when Chérif Chekatt, 29, opened fire around the market. A fifth victim is brain dead and 11 more were wounded, with four still in the hospital.
Chekatt, a Strasbourg native with an extensive criminal history who was flagged as a potential Islamic extremist in 2015, was shot and killed in an encounter with a routine police patrol in the city on Thursday.
France24 reported that Chekatt was able to slip his weapons through a tight security perimeter to gain access to the famed Christmas market. French President Emmanuel Macron was expected to attend the reopening of the market.
ISIS issued a statement, citing their Amaq news agency, claiming “an attack by a soldier of the Islamic State, in the city of Strasbourg, east of France, Tuesday evening, in response to the call to target the nationals of the countries of the coalition.”
The format is similar to claims ISIS has made for other attacks in the past. ISIS also described the attack in the news briefs section of their weekly al-Naba newsletter released Thursday. The article highlighted French officials’ description of Chekatt yelling “Allahu Akbar” at the scene.
Independent media organizations form a growing online support network for ISIS that creates and disseminates propaganda for recruitment and incitement on behalf of the terror group, with the goal of widening the geographical scope of attacks and ISIS influence.
The holidays figure prominently into their call for attacks, whether against the Vatican or against Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.
This onslaught of continuously fresh propaganda has figured into cases of lone jihad. Everitt Aaron Jameson of Modesto, Calif., pleaded guilty this summer to plotting a Christmas 2017 attack at Pier 39, a popular tourist spot in San Francisco; he loved with a heart on Facebook a poster from ISIS supporters showing Santa overlooking Times Square with a box of dynamite at his side.
Two weeks ago, an ISIS-supporting media group depicted a hoodie-clad, knife-wielding jihadist approaching a Christmas-decorated Toronto shopping and entertainment district.
The image showed Yonge-Dundas Square lit up at night, with the Christmas tree outside of the Dundas subway station entrance. Photoshopped at the base of the Christmas tree were two grenades, sticks of dynamite with a timer, and a blood-spattered backpack.
“O cross pigs we’ll color your Christmas with your blood,” stated a message in the corner of the image, distributed via ISIS channels. “So drink its toast and your children’s presents will be your corpse pieces if Allah wants.”
Soon after that, the same group released an image of the angel Christmas lights stretching over Regent Street in London. Blood-spattered gunshot wounds were photoshopped onto the angel in the forefront, as a rifle-wielding jihadist looked on.
“Terrorize them in their lands and kill them wherever you find them,” said the text.