Homeland Security

After ISIS Claims Credit for Toronto Attack, NYT Reporter Says Killer Could Not Have Been Pro-ISIS

After ISIS Claims Credit for Toronto Attack, NYT Reporter Says Killer Could Not Have Been Pro-ISIS
People light candles and leave photos of 18-year-old victim Reese Fallon at a memorial remembering the victims of Sunday's shooting in Toronto on Monday, July 23, 2018. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)

A shooting in the Greektown area of Toronto Monday evening killed two and injured 13 more victims:


On Tuesday, Canadian authorities identified the mass shooter as Faisal Hussain:

Early on Wednesday, ISIS claimed credit for Monday’s attack, calling Hussain a “soldier of the Islamic State”:

But later in the day, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callamachi claimed that because Hussain killed himself immediately following the attack, he could not possibly have been inspired by ISIS:

Now, alert readers might be a bit confused here. Not only did ISIS claim credit for the attack, as seen in the earlier tweet, but Callamachi herself had reported it.


Strangely, Callamachi was on Canadian TV giving an interview earlier today following the ISIS claim of credit acknowledging that, at least from ISIS’s point of view, they were praising Hussain for responding to their call for supporters to conduct attacks at home to terrorize Western countries:

The phrasing that refers to responding to calls to target coalition countries, that refers to a famous speech put out in 2014 by ISIS’s then spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, where they called on people who could not travel to the Islamic State who were still back home in Western countries and elsewhere in the world to carry out attacks in situ, in their own communities, anyway they could. It was in that speech that they spoke about using cars to run people over, even using rocks to use them to smash the heads of their enemies.

So what the phrasing indicates is that from ISIS’ perspective this was a man who was most likely self-radicalized, who was inspired by their propaganda, and not somebody who actually traveled to Syria, or took more concrete direction from the group.

So ISIS had no apparent stated problem with his suicide. And ISIS believed — according to Callamachi — that the attack was in response to their own propaganda. How does the manner of his suicide preclude that Hussain was an ISIS supporter and acting on the group’s call for adherents to conduct attacks in the West?

Well, it doesn’t.

Making the issue even more straightforward, media have reported that evidence shows Hussain may have been an ISIS supporter:


CBS News reported:

[A] law enforcement source told CBS News that Faisal Hussain visited Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) websites and may have expressed support for the terrorist group. They were looking into whether Hussain may have lived at one time in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, the source said. There is no indication that Hussain was directed by ISIS to carry out the attack.

Authorities have said they have yet to find any direct connection between Hussain and ISIS:


When pressed on the matter, Callimachi defended her position by pointing out that Hussain had killed himself after the attack:

Historically, Islam has considered suicide as haram (impermissible). That’s not really in question.

But in recent decades, beginning with the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the rise of Palestinian terror groups in the late 1980s, there has been considerable debate in the Sunni world about whether suicide attacks are not suicide and therefore permissible. A few senior Sunni Islamic clerics, such as the Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, have endorsed the practice. While it is a minority view in the Islamic world following the 9/11 attacks, it is not without supporters — including the Islamic State.

In fact, ISIS actively recruits for suicide (martyrdom) attacks.

Don’t just take my word for it:


Others noted that the acceptability of suicide in conducting attacks among those who endorse such practices (including ISIS) is highly subjective, but is generally based on the utility of the suicide:


Other scholars have noted that jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS have been openly debating this question for a while.

A blanket assertion that Hussain’s suicide precludes him from having intended to support ISIS is simply not reasonable. To summarize:

  1. A minority strain within Sunni Islam has justified suicide attacks as permissible martyrdom.
  2. ISIS operates within this stream of ideology.
  3. ISIS actively recruits for suicide attacks.
  4. ISIS itself took credit for Hussain’s attack in Toronto, calling him a “soldier of the Islamic State” who acted in response to their calls for attacks.

ISIS clearly had no problems with, or at least has remained silent about, his subsequent suicide:


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