Coordinated or not, attacks show Islamic State's growing reach

Islamic State Claim Responsibility for Deadly Blast at Kuwait City Mosque
The attacks came one after the other in the space of a few hours.

In France, a decapitated body covered in Arabic writing was found after an attacker rammed his car into a gas container, triggering an explosion. In Kuwait, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a packed Shi'ite mosque during Friday prayers, killing more than two dozen. And in Tunisia, at least 37 people died when a gunman opened fire at a popular tourist hotel.

There is no evidence the three attacks were deliberately coordinated. But coming so close together on the same day on three different continents, they underscored the far-reaching and fast-growing influence of Islamist group Islamic State, western politicians said.

The ultra-radical group, which has claimed direct responsibility for the Kuwait attack, clearly now poses a threat far beyond its heartland in Syria and Iraq.

See photos of the three separate terror attacks that took place today:

19 PHOTOS
Friday 6/26 ISIS-related attacks (Kuwait, France, Tunisia)
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Coordinated or not, attacks show Islamic State's growing reach
French security and emergency services gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
French police and firefighters gather at the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
French police and firefighters secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZE (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, central eastern France, on June 26, 2015. An attacker carrying an Islamist flag killed one person and injured several others at a gas factory in eastern France, according to a legal source. The suspected attacker entered the factory and set off several small explosive devices, the source said. A decapitated body was found nearby the factory, another source said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZE (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti security personnel and medical staff carry a man on a stretcher at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men react over a body at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti emergency personnel pull a man on stretchers past security forces outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man with blood-stained clothes and a bandaged head uses a phone at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men and a security member inspect the scene outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. The Islamic State group-affiliated group in Saudi Arabia, calling itself Najd Province, said militant Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid carried out the attack, which it claimed was spreading Shiite teachings among Sunni Muslims. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man with blood-stained clothes reacts as he sits at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti emergency personnel pull stretchers past security forces outside the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque after it was targeted by a suicide bombing during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Kuwaiti men react at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
A Kuwaiti man reacts at the site of a suicide bombing that targeted the Shiite Al-Imam al-Sadeq mosque during Friday prayers on June 26, 2015, in Kuwait City. (Photo credit Yasser Al-Zayyat, AFP/Getty Images)
Security measures are taken after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The bodies of people are seen after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Wounded people are carried after an armed attack on a tourist hotel in Sousse, east Tunisia, left at least 27 people dead, including foreigners, and injured six others , on June 26, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GRAPHIC CONTENT Covered bodies of victims of a mass-shooting are seen in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, following the attack on June 26, 2015. At least 27 people, including foreigners, were killed in a mass shooting at a Tunisian beach resort packed with holidaymakers, in the North African country's worst attack in recent history. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists console each other following a shooting attack in the resort town of Sousse, a popular tourist destination 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the Tunisian capital, on June 26, 2015. At least 27 people, including foreigners, were killed in a mass shooting at a Tunisian beach resort packed with holidaymakers, in the North African country's worst attack in recent history. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)
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It urged its followers this week to escalate attacks against Christians, as well as Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims fighting with a U.S.-led coalition.

On June 23, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani urged jihadists to turn the holy month of Ramadan into a time of "calamity for the infidels ... Shi'ites and apostate Muslims".

"Be keen to conquer in this holy month and to become exposed to martyrdom."

The Pentagon was looking into "whether or not these various and far flung attacks were coordinated centrally or whether or not they were coincidental," spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, noting Islamic State had claimed responsibility for one attack.

The U.S. State Department said later there was no indication they were coordinated on a tactical level but were clearly all "terrorist attacks".

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said police should be vigilant and prepared, especially ahead of the U.S. Independence Day holiday on July 4. Britain, which said at least five of its nationals were among those killed in Tunisia, summoned its emergency committee to discuss that attack and the one in France.

"This is a threat that faces all of us, these events that have taken place today in Tunisia andFrance, but they can happen anywhere - we all face this threat," British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.

"JUST ACT"

Two sources familiar with the thinking of U.S. intelligence agencies said that even if the attacks were not coordinated, they were likely to have been inspired by Islamic State's call to jihad or, possibly, the one year anniversary on Monday of the group's declaration of an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the attacks made clear that Islamic State's "ability to inspire and radicalize followers is a global threat and no nation is beyond its insidious reach".

Ed Royce, Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the attacks showed that the ISIS threat was spreading well beyond Iraqand Syria and called for better regional coordination in the fight against the militants and more targeted air strikes.

"We must aggressively deny ISIS an area from which to unfurl their black banners of hate and death and plot their attacks," he said in a statement.

U.S. Republicans have been extremely critical of President Barack Obama's response to the threat posed by Islamic State.

Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, based in London, also said it was unlikely the attacks were directly coordinated.

"I don't think that they talked to each other, knew of each other, or that there was a central command that told them to do that," he said. "There is zero evidence that they were coordinated."

At the same time, the French attack, which Neumann likened to other lone wolf attacks in the past year including in Sydney, Ottawa and Copenhagen, could have been inspired by Islamic State.

"In the case of the French attack, it's exactly the kind of attack that Islamic State wants people to do on their own without any prior consultation, coordination or whatever."

In September last year, Neumann said, the Islamic State spokesman urged followers not to "wait for us to tell you what to do. From now on you have permission to just strike wherever you want, kill infidels wherever you find them, do whatever is within your capability, just act."

While Islamic State has claimed direct responsibility for only the Kuwait attack, one Islamic State fighter told Reuters that in a general sense the assaults in both Kuwait and Tunisiahad the blessing of the Islamic State caliphate.

"The speech of (IS spokesman Abu Muhammad) al-Adnani, may God protect him, he ordered soldiers and Amirs to make the month of Ramadan, the month of conquests and so it will be."

(With additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut David Alexander and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Written by Simon Robinson; Edited by Philippa Fletcher, Toni Reinhold)

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