Stakelbeck on Fox News Today Discussing Orlando Terror Attack

I’ll be on Fox News today at 3 pm Eastern discussing the horrific Islamic terrorist attack in Orlando: the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, with at least 50 people dead. As I write this, Florida Senator Bill Nelson is saying that he has talked to Intelligence Committee staff and that they believe there may be an ISIS connection here. This would certainly be no surprise, although there is nothing confirmed yet on that front just yet. What is clear, however, is that this was an act of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil. Here are some initial thoughts:

–As stated above, it’s unclear right now as I write this, at noon Eastern time, whether the Islamic jihadist who perpetrated this attack, 29-year-old Omar Mateen–a U.S. citizen whose parents are from Afghanistan–has any link to ISIS, Al Qaeda or a terror organization. That may change very quickly as more details continue to emerge throughout the day. Did Mateen have some kind of support or direction from terrorists overseas? Had he left the U.S. to receive training from jihadists abroad and then returned? Or was he acting on his own as a “long  wolf”–inspired by ISIS and its calls for jihad on the West, but with no direct link to the organization? We’ve seen both scenarios unfold in the West in recent years, with some terror attacks committed by those with concrete global jihadist ties (think Paris and Brussels) and others committed by “lone wolves” who have self-radicalized online and are inspired by ISIS and the global jihadist movement (the January attack on a police officer in Philadelphia, for instance).

–In my recent book, “ISIS Exposed,” I described how ISIS–like Al Qaeda before it–has called on every Muslim in the West to rise up and carry out the kind of one-man or one-woman jihadi attack that we just witnessed in Orlando. The success of the Mumbai attack in November 2008 set a very disturbing precedent that jihadists around the world undoubtedly noticed and are employing with deadly success here in the West: hitting soft targets–from Boston to Paris to Brussels to San Bernardino to Tel Aviv this past week to Orlando last night and many more, is a highly effective strategy on several fronts: 1) While obviously not on the scale of 9/11, these attacks can still leave dozens and potentially hundreds of innocent people dead and maimed. 2) These sorts of attacks on clubs and cafes where people are just going about their daily business are really the definition of terror and if carried out on a regular basis, can have a profound effect on a nation’s psyche and way of life. 3) These attacks dominate the media cycle and headlines for weeks on end, giving jihadists the kind of attention and propaganda value they crave and serving as a recruiting tool. 4) If carried out on a regular basis, soft target attacks could have an economic impact, whether in shopping districts, hotels, airports, etc.

–I’ve written before that ISIS ultimately wants to turn Western cities into guerrilla war zones, where we’re seeing the kind of attack that we saw in Orlando on a regular basis, and not just occasionally. Given that ISIS has a growing army of supporters in the U.S. , according to FBI Director James Comey, and that ISIS has been taking hits and losing some ground in Iraq and Syria, we can expect a greater emphasis on Western targets. ISIS must always give the impression that it has momentum. If its caliphate in Iraq and Syria is being squeezed, we can expect more ISIS activity in Sinai, Libya and yes, the West.

–I hear some this morning grasping for a motive as to why a gay nightclub would be targeted, but the target here should not come as a surprise. Islamic jihadists from Tehran to Kabul to Gaza to Raqqa have long targeted homosexuals for torture and murder and do so openly.