The statement issued Wednesday by Amaq, an ISIS mouthpiece, provided no evidence the terrorist group was linked to Sunday’s shooting that killed two and wounded 13.
But police officials continued to caution that there was still no indication of any link to national security and that it would take time to determine the attacker’s motive.
“At this stage, we have no evidence to support these claims,” said a statement issued by Toronto police chief Mark Saunders.
“Accurate information about this investigation will only be released by the Toronto Police Service. We will continue to explore every investigative avenue including interviewing those who knew Mr. Hussain, reviewing his online activity, and looking into his experiences with mental health”.
Academic experts were dubious of the claim, suggesting Amaq was simply parroting a U.S. media report that claimed police were investigating whether the Toronto gunman had consumed ISIS online materials.
“ISIS claims used to be fairly solid. If they claimed an attack, you could be fairly certain that the attacker was in contact with somebody linked to ISIS central,” said Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
“But maybe for about a year, and including the Vegas shooting, their claims are less reliable, it seems to me. And the sources they site are often just media reports. This is why I said I was fairly confident ISIS would claim the attack after CBS did their article. For ISIS, these days, that seems to be enough confirmation. I call bulls**t.”
A translation of the statement by the Middle East Media Research Institute said Amaq attributed the claim to a “security source” and indicted the killer had acted on behalf of the group.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday there was no national security link to the gun attack in Toronto’s Greektown by Faisal Hussain, a 29-year-old retail worker.
“We have nothing to add to our previous statement,” Hilary Peirce, spokesperson for the public safety minister, said Wednesday. “Toronto Police remain the lead and it’s still early in the investigation.
“At this time, there is no national security nexus to the shooter,” Peirce said.
According to a statement issued by his family, Hussain suffered from severe mental health problems. Police sources have also said he had been previously apprehended under the Mental Health Act.
Amaq last claimed an attack in Canada in 2016 when Aaron Driver, an online ISIS supporter, was killed by police in his driveway while leaving his home to conduct a suicide bombing.
Carleton University professor Stephanie Carvin said ISIS used to claim only attacks by those who had pledged allegiance to the terror group.
“Recently, however, the group has been far less disciplined, claiming things like the Las Vegas shooting,” the national security expert said.
“This may be due to a lack of capacity to conduct large-scale attacks or a need to stay in the headlines. So my assessment is that this is not definitive proof, especially as our own police and federal agencies are still saying there is no national security nexus at this point. Perhaps they may find something in their examination of his computer and/or phone where they change their mind.”