A Palestinian Jihadist movement is claiming responsibility for the recently contained Arizona wildfires that left 19 firefighters dead. Local fire officials however, insist the conflagration was caused by lightning, not terrorists.
A statement from Masada al-Mujahideen titled “Masada al-Mujahideen Fulfilled its Promise and Attacked America Again After the Expiration of the Period with Fires that Achieved Historic Results,” was obtained from an online Jihadist forum and translated by the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group. The group tracks the online activities of terrorist organizations.
“We had previously announced an unconventional war against the occupation state of Israel, and then we escalated this war to reach its main supporter, America, so that it receives a major share of it, which will destroy their flora and fauna, with permission from Allah and then with our hands,” the group said.
The statement added that the group targeted the United States “in order to make it clear and to make it known that we can reach it when we warn it, and to make it certain that our hands don’t just reach it but also strike it.”
The group warned that the attacks “will not be the last, if America does not respond to our demands.” The statement also boasted of the 19 firefighters being killed.
Officials in Arizona told The Algemeiner they were unaware of such claims, and that they were “unequivocal” in their determination as to the cause of the fire.
“The fire was caused by lightning, we have satellite data to back that up,” Dan Ware, a spokesperson for the Yarnell Hill Fire Joint Information Center, where the firefighters were killed, said, adding that such fires were typical in Arizona.
Carrie Dennett of the Arizona State Forestry Division told The Algemeiner that she was also unaware of such claims.
“There was never any speculation even in that arena–of terrorism,” she said. “It’s always been from day 1 that the cause was lightning.”
Dennett added that terrorism concerns were left to the department of Homeland Security, but that she was unaware of any instances in which terrorism had been suspected in forest fire cases in the state.
“To my knowledge there has never been any discussion of or making precautions against terrorism. We detect fires and we put them out.”
Last year Russian intelligence services blamed al-Qaeda for several forest fires in the European Union, warning that it was a new tactic of the terror group.
“One should note that setting fires to forests in the countries of the European Union is a new tendency in al-Qaeda’s strategy of a ‘thousand cuts’,” Alexander Bortnikov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti, at a meeting of heads of security agencies.
“This method allows (al-Qaeda) to inflict significant economic and moral damage without serious preliminary preparations, technical equipment or significant expenses.”