Texas attack shows evolution of 'lone wolf' militants - US officials

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(Reuters) - U.S. investigators believe two men killed after opening fire on a Texas event that offered a prize for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad represent an evolving model of "lone wolf" militants who are radicalized partly by themselves and partly through long-distance engagement with organized militants.

Although the Islamic State movement claimed credit for the Texas shooting, several U.S. officials said investigators have no evidence that either of the men shot dead by security personnel after they opened fire at the Garland, Texas, event traveled to Syria or Iraq. U.S. court documents do show that one of the men, Elton Simpson, once tried to travel to Somalia.

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Texas attack shows evolution of 'lone wolf' militants - US officials
Pakistani residents offer funeral prayers in Peshawar on May 5, 2015, for attackers who were killed when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Garland, Texas. The two gunmen shot dead when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition have been identified as roommates from Arizona, one of them a suspected jihadist, reports. Several US media identified the shooters -- killed by police in Garland, Texas outside the event -- as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. AFP PHOTO/ HASHAM AHMED (Photo credit should read HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani residents shout slogans as they march behind a banner during a protest in Peshawar on May 5, 2015, against the anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition in Garland, Texas. The two gunmen shot dead when they attempted to storm an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibition have been identified as roommates from Arizona, one of them a suspected jihadist, reports. Several US media identified the shooters -- killed by police in Garland, Texas outside the event -- as 31-year-old Elton Simpson and 34-year-old Nadir Soofi. AFP PHOTO/ HASHAM AHMED (Photo credit should read HASHAM AHMED/AFP/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigates the media area near the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigate the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A Garland Police car is parked outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: Investigators remove a body as they work a crime scene outside the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigate the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: A member of the FBI Evidence Response Team investigates the crime scene outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before, on May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and Nadir Soofi opened fire, wounding a security guard. Police officers shot and killed Simpson at the scene. The provocative cartoon event was billed by organizers as a free speech event while critics deemed it to be anti-Islamic. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
GARLAND, TX - MAY 4: An investigator works a crime scene before the removal a two bodies outside of the Curtis Culwell Center after a shooting occurred the day before May 04, 2015 in Garland, Texas. During the 'Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest,' an anti-Islam event, on May 03, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, Arizonia and another man opend fire, wounding a security guard . Police officers shot and killed Simpson at teh scene. (Photo by Ben Torres/Getty Images)
Heavy police presence all along North Garland @dallasnews #GarlandShooting http://t.co/kVIolnBjCb
UPDATE: Two men opened fire on Culwell Center, Garland PD shot and killed both men http://t.co/PaWaw5ESyL
Update from the scene of shooting outside an event - the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, TX @NBCDFW http://t.co/35Wb0e5Z8M
Situation in #Garland currently unfolding, business evacuated, streets closed: http://t.co/q5ra0YVuSk http://t.co/6HkVMB6iyH
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Officials also said that no hard evidence had emerged to demonstrate that Simpson and the second Texas shooter, Nadir Soofi, attacked the contest venue under direct orders, or encouragement, from Islamic State leaders.

However, investigators are examining exchanges on Twitter in the days before the attack between Simpson and Junaid Hussain of the Cybercaliphate, an affiliate of IS, as well as between Simpson and Mujahid Miski of Minnesota, another alleged recruiter for violent jihad.

But a U.S. official said investigators believed it was likely that IS played an "inspirational" rather than an "operational" role in the attack.

Soofi's father has said that someone coerced his son into participating in the attack, the Dallas Morning News reported on Wednesday.

In a written statement posted online by the newspaper, Azam Soofi described Nadir as "a model son."

"Someone pushed him into this situation," Azam Soofi said in the statement. He was not immediately available for comment.

Nadir Soofi, who was born in the United States but lived abroad as a child, was a popular schoolboy in Pakistan but struggled to adjust after moving back to the U.S. as a teen, friends who studied with him in Pakistan have said. [ID:nL4N0XW3FK]

A U.S. intelligence official said that while the United States was concerned about Westerners traveling to Syria to fight with IS, "We also remain concerned about individuals in the West who are inspired by Isle's propaganda and may take violent action on their own ... We expect IS and its supporters to continue their efforts to incite fear and encourage lone wolf attacks around the world."

According to a U.S. intelligence estimate seen by Reuters, U.S. agencies now believe that around 22,500 foreign fighters, including at least 4,000 Westerners, have traveled to Syria from more than 100 countries. That overall estimate, prepared in recent weeks, was 500 greater than a U.S. estimate issued in February.

However, U.S. officials questioned the authenticity of a purported Islamic State communiques that surfaced on Wednesday that claimed the group had trained 71 soldiers in 15 different U.S. states who were "ready at our word to attack any target we have desired." The communiques said that 23 of the 71 had signed up for "missions like" the Texas attack last weekend.

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