Authorities are investigating what appears to be Islamic State supporters taking ‘selfies’ outside some of New York City’s iconic locations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and One World Trade Center.
In the images that began circulating on social media over the weekend, a man wearing a scarf with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) symbols is shown in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. The image is captioned “We are in your own Backyard,” according to news reports.
A second image shows a person holding a phone with an ISIS flag in the shadows of the One World Trade Center building. The photo was reportedly taken near the spot where an IS sympathizer drove a truck down a bike lane on Halloween, killing eight people.
The photos were spotted in pro-Islamic State channels on the instant messaging app Telegram, terror watchdog group Memri told the New York Post.
“The NYPD is aware of the photograph. As with all terror related threats, the NYPD is looking into the incident. At this time there are no credible threats to New York City,” an NYPD spokesman told New York Daily News Tuesday night.
Imagery like that was used to spread fear and possibly inspire so-called lone wolf attacks, the Daily News quoted Eric Feinberg of GIPEC, a cyber-intelligence company that tracks terrorism-related hashtags.
Attempts to induce fear and inspire lone jihadists have increased since IS’ retreat in Iraq and Syria, where the group lost most of its territory and fighters. The group has increasingly shifted focus on inciting terror attacks in Europe and the US rather than recruiting militants to the “caliphate.”
The selfie posts come just weeks after Bangladeshi-born Akayed Ullah attempted to blow himself up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal during rush hour, reportedly inspired by the terrorist group. Ullah told investigators that he was radicalized through online propaganda.