On social media, some people are wondering: Is it possible that terrorists or ISIS are behind the raging fires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee?
Is there any evidence for this?
There is no evidence at all that terrorists or ISIS are behind the Gatlinburg fire, and authorities have not said as much. No terrorist organizations have claimed any responsibility, either.
However, there is evidence that Islamic terrorists and Jihadists may have turned to or advocated for arson fire as a general method of terror. The hashtags #FireJihad and #ForestJihad are starting to take off on Twitter. In Israel, a series of fires in recent days is considered possible terrorism.
Authorities have said very little about the Sevier County fire’s cause thus far. They have simply said that its origins are human-caused. That comment was attributed to National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn, who did not provide further details, said KTLA, adding that the cause is under investigation.
However, that could mean that the fire was caused accidentally by human negligence versus a purposeful arson fire. The blaze has killed three people, destroyed resorts, homes, and businesses, and led to general devastation as it rips through the tourist gateway to the Smoke Mountains.
Sadly, arson fires are not that unusual in Tennessee (and they are not foreign terrorist related). In fact, one local television station took great pains to inform people on the internet that a story about two arson suspects in Tennessee had been published before the Gatlinburg blaze.
What evidence is there that terrorists or ISIS have turned to fire as their latest weapon? For one, what is going on in Israel.
On November 26, Israeli police detained 23 people “on suspicion of arson in connection with wildfires that swept across central and northern Israel this week,” CNN reported, saying that Israel was battling 250 different fires in just a few days and had battled over 1,500 fires. CNN said people on social media were connecting those “fires to current proposed Israeli legislation that could ban loudspeakers broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer.”
Haaretz put the number of Israeli fires at more than 1,700 but said that police were denying reports from national tax authorities that they had determined the fires were caused by terrorism. The Daily Caller said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the fires, “a crime for all intents and purposes and in our opinion it is terror for all intents and purposes.” Some people who oppose Israel were celebrating the Israeli fires on Twitter.
Although authorities have said nothing about a link, some on Twitter are making it.
Such concerns have existed for several years. In 2013, a Forbes Magazine contributor wrote, “There are valid reasons to link numerous deadly wildfires in Europe and the American West to actions of international arsonists.”
In 2012, ABC News reported that an Al-Qaeda magazine was “offering detailed advice on how to start huge forest fires in America with timed explosives and how to build remote-controlled bombs.”
The magazine called for the creation of so-called “ember bombs,” providing “detailed instructions on how to ignite an ’ember bomb’ in a U.S. forest, recommending Montana because of the rapid population growth in wooded areas.”
However, recent arson wildfire attacks have been from homegrown actors who aren’t tied to foreign terrorism. For example, two local men were accused of setting arson fires in Tennessee in mid-November.
Fox 17 Nashville reported: “Year to date, there has been 1,238 wildfires in Tennessee, with 50 percent of them suspected arson.”
Learn more about the possible causes of the Gatlinburg fire here:
See photos of people described as missing on November 29: