The Daily Telegraph

Isil inspired ‘lone wolf ’ attacker

- By Josie Ensor

ISIL’S carefully worded claim of responsibi­lity suggested the Westminste­r attacker was inspired – rather than instructed – by the jihadist group.

A statement released yesterday by the official Amaq media agency of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) described the assailant as a “soldier of the caliphate” but gave no other details.

Isil channels on the Telegram app, an encrypted messaging applicatio­n, shared pictures of a man wrongly accused of being the attacker, fuelling speculatio­n that the group did not actually know who was behind Wednesday’s murders.

The Telegram app is favoured by jihadists because government­s are unable to hack communicat­ions.

Isil almost never claims attacks it is not in some way responsibl­e for.

Some killers have simply pledged allegiance to the group and acted on its general call to arms, while others have had guidance on everything from the target to the method and the timing. In the case of the Istanbul nightclub attack on New Year’s Eve, the assailant was coached by Isil handlers, who funded and helped plan every stage of the assault.

In other instances, such as the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Florida last summer, the connection was much more tenuous.

Khalid Masood appeared to be acting on his own, but experts say even where attacks appear to have been perpetrate­d by “lone wolves”, they are rarely acting in complete isolation.

“Even the inspired attacks have tended to occur within the context of a network – in other words, accomplice­s, which means by definition they are not ‘lone’,” said Kyle Orton, Middle East analyst at The Henry Jackson Society think tank.

The downplayin­g of Isil’s direct role in the European attacks had deadly consequenc­es last year when the connection­s between a series of plots in France were missed, and the diversion of the security forces helped allow the co-ordinated attacks in Paris of Nov 13 2015 when suicide bombers and gunmen targeted the Stade de France, restaurant­s and the Bataclan concert hall, leaving 130 people dead.

Thirty-one of the 38 Isil-related European plots have involved either online or in-person direction by Isil.

It is unclear whether Masood had travelled to Iraq or Syria, but most attacks carried out in Isil’s name have been by home-grown terrorists.

As Isil came under threat in the socalled caliphate, it encouraged foreign supporters not to travel there but to carry out attacks at home.

31 The number of plots in Europe inspired by Isil that have involved terrorists being instructed by the group

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