The Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday (May 5) for the attack outside a Texas art show showcasing cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
A statement read in a bulletin on the group’s Al Bayan radio station said “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out Sunday’s attack, the jihadist monitoring service SITE Intel Group said.
The statement from the group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, said: “We tell … America that what is coming will be more grievous and more bitter and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what will harm you, God willing,” the Associated Press reported.
It is the first time Islamic State militants who control vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for an attack on U.S. soil. It was not clear if Islamic State leaders had any knowledge of the attack before it took place Sunday (May 3) at the Muhammad Art Exhibit event.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned the attack.
Police said the suspects drove to a parking lot entrance at at the event site, the Curtis Culwell center in the Dallas suburb of Garland. A patrol car blocked the entrance to the lot, so the men got out of their car and began shooting, Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said.
A security guard in the patrol car was wounded in the leg. Police killed the attackers, identified as Phoenix residents Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Soofi, 34.
The exhibit, hosted by the anti-Muslim American Freedom Defense Initiative, featured “images of Islam’s prophet, both historic and contemporary, and speeches by leading voices of freedom and internationally renowned free speech advocates,” according to a press release by the group.
According to Islamic tradition, representational depictions of the Prophet Muhammad — even respectful ones — are blasphemous. Simpson is believed to have tweeted several ominous messages before the Garland incident, using the hashtag #texasattack.
He was indicted in January 2010 for lying to the FBI in a terrorism investigation when he told federal investigators he had not discussed traveling to Somalia to engage in “violent jihad,” federal court papers show. He was convicted a year later and sentenced to three years probation.
Soofi owned a carpet cleaning business, according the Arizona corporate records. Previously, from 2009 to 2013, he owned Cleopatra’s Pizza Bistro, a 40-seat restaurant in North Phoenix, that served halal, or Islamically permissible food.
Court records show he was sued twice for allegedly stealing pay-per-view broadcasts of Ultimate Fighting matches and showing them to patrons at the restaurant. He lost the lawsuits by default and was ordered to pay damages of several thousand dollars.
(Donna Leinwand Leger of USA TODAY, and Brahm Resnik or KPNX-TV contributed.)